John Trent among first to receive Apple science innovator award
January 16th, 2008
University of Louisville researcher John Trent is among the first recipients of the Science Innovator Award from Apple Computer Inc.
He is being recognized for partnering with Kentucky Dataseam Initiative, a non-profit organization that harnesses unused computing power in more than 50 school districts across Kentucky into a powerful grid. Trent and his team use the grid, available when students are not in school, to help them search for new compounds that might be developed into cancer drugs.
The search process requires the screening of vast libraries of molecular compound data, some of which contain millions of compounds. The process is comparable to looking for a specific puzzle piece in a box that contains 10 million puzzle pieces that look more or less the same.
“That’s why computing power is a make-or-break issue for our drug discovery program,” said Trent, an associate professor of medicine with joint appointments in chemistry and biochemistry and molecular biology. He also is director of molecular modeling at UofL’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center.
The computer grid allows Trent to shorten the time required to sort through potential compounds from years to days. It has helped the Brown Cancer Center build a promising drug pipeline for new cancer therapies.
Grid technology is not new; commercial grids are available but costly, Trent said.
“Dataseam was appealing because it’s using an untapped resource,” he said. “Plus, Macintoshes that are so popular in schools are based on the Unix or Linux computing platform, which is similar to the supercomputers in my lab, as well as many others. So it makes the system easier to use for us.
“This will definitely help us develop life-saving drugs and treatments faster,” Trent said.
In receiving the award, Trent joins as recipients a group of distinguished scientists from Harvard, Princeton, the universities of Michigan and Illinois, UCLA and Duke.