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Volunteer Computing IBERCIVIS

IBERCIVIS (site in Portuguese) is an initiative of Volunteer Distributed Computing for Scientific Applications launched in 2009 in cooperation with Spain, following the cooperation agreements on e-Science signed in the Portugal-Spain Summits.

This initiative, launched at the end of the e-Science session of the Meeting with Science in Portugal – Science 2009, allows the direct and real-time participation of citizens in scientific research by donating processing time of personal computers for applications of scientific interest through distributing computing techniques similar to Grid Computing.

This initiative aims at involving the largest possible number of citizens in volunteer computing, by making available their computers, when they are not being fully used, for the production of scientific knowledge and, at the same time, providing the scientific community with a powerful computing tool. The personal computer becomes an open window to science and opens a new channel for the direct dialogue between researchers and society.

In the Portugal-Spain cooperation agreements in e-Science signed at the XXIV Portugal-Spain Summit, in the 22nd of January 2009, in Zamora, Spain, it was established that Portuguese and Spanish teams with work together to extend to Portugal the IBERCIVIS (site in Portuguese), that was initiated in Spain in 2008, as an additional action of cooperation Portugal-Spain that in Portugal is supported by the Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) , the Foundation for national Scientific Computing (FCCN) and Ciência Viva – national Agency for the Scientific and Technological Culture.

The collaboration of the Institute for Biocomputing and Physics of Complex Systems of the University of Zaragozza (BIFI) and its commitment and generous work allowed a team that also involved researchers and technicians of the Portuguese Associate Laboratories Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (CNC) and Laboratory of Instrumentation and Experimental Particle Physics (LIP), under the coordination of Professor Rui Brito, of CNC, to install in record time systems that extended the initiative and incorporated the application AmIloidE dedicated to Familial Amyloid Polyneuropathy (FAP) and Alzheimer's disease.

The AmIloidE project consists in computer searching libraries of millions of compounds for potential drugs that may interfere with the formation of aggregates and amyloid fibrils in neurodegenerative diseases, and has as main targets the PAF and Alzheimer's disease. This project is of the responsibility of scientists from the Group of Structural Biology and the Center for Computational Neuroscience and Cell Biology (CNC), University of Coimbra.

The Familial Amyloid Polyneuropathy (FAP) is a degenerative disease of the peripheral nervous system characterized initially by changes in temperature sensitivity and pain in the lower limbs and progressing to a state of physical weakness of all patients with multiple complications. There are several outbreaks of disease in the world, one of the main ones in Portugal. The PAF was identified in the early 1950s, by Professor Corino de Andrade (1906-2005), and since then a constant effort was made to characterize the disease and search for therapeutic solutions by Portuguese scientists, and many others around the world. Currently, the amyloid diseases have no cure. However, in the case of Alzheimer's disease, several different drugs alleviate symptoms or slow the pace of disease progression. In the case of PAF, the only therapy that, so far, has proved effective is liver transplants, because this organ is the major site of protein synthesis (TTR, transthyretin) responsible for the formation of amyloid in this disease.

The Gulbenkian Science Award 2009, awarded on 20 July 2009, distinguished research in the PAF by being awarded to Maria João Saraiva, Researcher at the Associate Laboratory Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology (IBMC) and Professor of Biochemistry at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences Abel Salazar of the University of Porto, for her work in investigating the mechanisms of PAF, including the discovery of the genetic and biochemical mechanisms responsible for the disease, more specifically the formation of amyloid deposits of transthyretin (TTR), especially in the peripheral nerves.

People wishing to join the Volunteer Computing initiative IBERCIVIS (site in Portuguese) for scientific purposes can do it on the Internet in (site in Portuguese), and may choose to work with the project AMILOIDE or any of the projects already undertaken by Spanish scientists in the IBERCIVIS (site in Portuguese), among other: simulated trajectories in the future nuclear fusion reactor ITER - International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Cadarache, France), docking of ligands to proteins in seeking remedies for certain types of cancer, simulation of magnetic materials with impurities, analysis of structural properties of amino acids and small peptides (sequences of a few dozen amino acids) that act on the brain and nervous system, simulating the behavior of light at the nanoscale important for construction of new materials, development of new computer systems and communication and improvement of solar panels. All these projects are described in the IBERCIVIS (site in Portuguese) portal on the Internet ( (site in Portuguese)).  

This initiative extends the already very active and highly successful cooperation between Portugal and Spain in e-Science, coordinated in Portugal by the Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC), namely in the context of Grid Computing through the IBERGRID initiative launched three years ago and seeks to manage as a common infrastructure the facilities of the Computing Grid initiatives in both countries, of the cooperation in Supercomputing, and of the connection of the National Research an Education Networks of both countries ring (RCTS in Portugal and Rede Iris in Spain) crossing the border of the two countries in Valença and Badajoz.

Last updated ( 24/10/2011 )