PHILADELPHIA — A project launched this week will use PC power to search for molecules that might block the anthrax toxin from entering human cells. The ambitious project has the backing of computer giants Intel and Microsoft, distributed computing specialist United Devices, the chemistry department at the University of Oxford, UK, and the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR).

The anthrax project comes on the heels of a successful similar effort in cancer research that the same team began last April. Headed by Graham Richards, chairman of chemistry at Oxford and director of the NFCR Centre for Computational Drug Design there, the cancer project uses the power of idle PCs to screen small molecules for sites that might bind to cancer-related proteins. The screensaver program then sends results back to a primary server. It has so far enlisted the aid of almost 1.3 million computers around the world...

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