Digital cells
TRE14 digital cells

Much of the future of pharmaceuticals is in algorithms, not petri dishes. Researchers will develop drugs based on programs that predict how chemicals will interact with the body. Titan, for example, will advance these digital drug tests, says Jack Wells, the director of science at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility. It will let researchers solve equations that apply a technique called molecular dynamics. In this approach to solving problems in biology, chemistry, and materials sciences, scientists model the movement of individual atoms or molecules, factoring in the various forces exerted on them. Unfortunately, even with today's most powerful computers, scientists can only apply molecular dynamics to small clusters of atoms. A human cell, on the other hand, is composed of billions of atoms that all interact, and it is too complex for current computers to model. The hope is that future supercomputers could handle whole cells.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated January 15 2013 06:14 AM ET
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