Pioneering research into both cancer and COVID-19 is being made possible by tens of thousands of smartphones working together through Vodafone Foundation’s DreamLab app.
As the UN marks World Cancer Day 2021, scientists at Imperial College London are poring over the latest results from their DreamLab DRUGS cancer research project.
The research involves analysing millions of combinations of existing cancer drugs and food molecules to identify how they could potentially be adjusted to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of cancer treatments.
DreamLab users have helped the Imperial team complete Phase 4 of the DRUGS project in just eight months, crunching 25 million calculations in the process. This latest phase is exploring whether combinations of molecules from multiple types of food can be more effective as co-treatments for cancer rather than single foods alone.
Project DRUGS will now move onto its final Phase 5. This will explore the links between the bioactive components in food and drugs and is expected to be completed by December 2022. Researchers at Imperial believe no one else has attempted similar research on this scale, with 200-400 million calculations expected to be completed.
Another Imperial DreamLab project, Corona-AI, is hunting for drugs with antiviral properties – which might help identify potential new treatments for COVID-19 – and researchers believe there may be interesting links between the two projects.
“We are very interested in some of the cross-findings between Project DRUGS and Corona-AI and have published early results in the peer-reviewed journal of Human Genomics to facilitate prospective clinical research to validate these findings,” said Dr Kirill Veselkov, lead researcher at Imperial’s Department of Surgery and Cancer.
The DreamLab app uses the combined computing power of tens of thousands of smartphones to crunch complex scientific data faster than it would take on a supercomputer. It is the largest ‘volunteer computing’ initiative ever undertaken. Users simply charge their phones overnight, fire up the app and donate their phones’ brainpower to the projects.
The DreamLab app has been downloaded by a million people in 17 countries and now has 100,000 regular users.
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