Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Supercomputers vs. Superbugs

PostedOctober 15, 2017

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LEDE: When dealing with epidemics or bioterrorism, a fast response is vital.  Researchers are now turning to supercomputers for help.

Randy Atkins: If someone contracts a new or mutated pathogen, correctly diagnosing and treating them could take months.  So Cong Trinh, an engineer at the University of Tennessee, is working on a system that uses complex algorithms and supercomputers to analyze a germ’s D-N-A and identify its most vulnerable genes.

Cong Trinh: The system allows us to identify and inactivate the pathogens, especially those that are rapidly evolved and virulent.

Randy Atkins: Once target genes are identified, medicines or gene therapy techniques can be used to inactivate them and destroy the pathogen.

Cong Trinh: By inactivating them at the genetic level, we…inactivate them even before they have a chance to evolve or adapt.

Randy Atkins: While still in the lab testing stage, Trinh hopes to start clinical trials in about two to three years.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.