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Home > iSGTW 9 July 2008 > iSGTW Feature - WCG to tackle rice crisis

Feature - World Community Grid to Tackle Rice Crisis

IBM and researchers at the University of Washington launched a new program
on World Community Grid, a humanitarian research effort,  to develop
stronger strains of rice that could produce crops with larger and more
nutritious yields.
Image courtesy of the University of Washington.

As concerns of a global hunger crisis mount, researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, have launched a new program on IBM’s World Community Grid to develop stronger strains of rice that could produce crops with larger, more nutritious yields and greater resistance to changing weather patterns.

Jumpstarted by a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the “Nutritious Rice for the World” program will harness over 160 teraflops of the grid’s volunteer-donated processing power to study rice at the atomic level.  Researchers expect the results to transfer to other cereal crops such as corn, wheat, and barley and to have a major impact on global health.

World Community Grid will run a modeling program created by computational biologists at the University of Washington to study the structures of the proteins that make up the building blocks of rice and identify those that are likely to produce more rice grains, ward off pests, resist disease or hold more nutrients.  The resulting map of rice proteins and their related functions, the largest and most comprehensive to date, will help agriculturalists and farmers select the best plants for cross-breeding. 

A visualization of a rice protein known by the identifier 1TH5.

Fewer than one hundred rice protein structures are known; this project hopes to predict the structures of the remaining tens of thousands. 

Image courtesy of University of Washington.  

“There are between 30,000 and 60,000 different protein structures to study,” said Principal Investigator, Dr.  Ram Samudrala, Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Washington.  “Using traditional experimental approaches in the laboratory would take decades. Running our software program on World Community Grid will shorten the time from 200 years to less than 2 years.”

World Community Grid, the largest public humanitarian grid in existence, links to nearly a million computers. Anyone with a computer and Internet access can download secure software to donate compute power to the grid while the computer is idle.

“This project could ultimately stave off hunger for some,” said Stanley Litow, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs and President of the IBM International Foundation.  “Volunteers can personally affect how quickly this research is completed and can make a significant difference for farmers and people in great need.”

Sandra Dressel, IBM Corporate Communications

“Nutritious Rice for the World” is one of six projects running simultaneously on World Community Grid.  More information about research on the WCG may be found at

To donate  processing power from your computer, register at


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