Awards and Prizes

Discover discovers Noever's discovery

David Noever, a NASA Marshall Space Flight Center biophysicist received one of the Discover Magazine 1998 awards for his drug discovery software. Noever's technique employs a genetic algorithm that starts off with a molecule known to have a specific biological activity and interacting with a specific target molecule. The program begins randomly rearranging the atoms and substituting some atoms for others. Using the information from a database and numerous physicochemical criteria, the program then evaluates for each molecule the probability that it will be effective or 'survive' to the next generation. After literally trillions of reproductive cycles - or a few days of evolution on a dedicated computer chip - the software generates the structures of promising drug candidates. "The investment in drug research and its social consequences are so high" he says, "that doing 5 percent better than random search is a huge improvement".

Ewa Ciszak