School students challenged to find a cure for malaria
In the first project of its kind, school students will have the chance to design compounds with anti-malarial potential.
The University's Schools of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) and Chemistry,in conjunction with the Department of Chemistry at the University of Reading, have set up the Schools Malaria Project website (http://emalaria.soton.ac.uk) which hosts a web-based browser interface similar to that used by drug companies. Students are invited to register for admission to the site where they will learn more about the disease. They will also be able to research approaches to combating it and develop new molecules with anti-malarial potential.
Students will be using real drug-design tools and will be guided through the various stages of the drug-design process, right from their initial sketches of molecules to docking of the structure into the proposed active site to establish if it is a good 'fit'. They will also be able to consult with other students and university researchers and compare their progress with other schools through a group-scoring table.
Dr Jeremy Frey of the University's School of Chemistry comments: 'This type of exercise has never been made available to school students before. We believe that there is a very real chance that some of the compounds that they come up with will be made.'
This e-science project, which will be launched in September to sixth form colleges in Hampshire, is designed to increase young people's interest in science and the material is aligned with the A-level Chemistry syllabus. Dr Frey added: 'We need to change the poor impression young people have of science and this is widely recognised as essential for the future of the UK science and technology base. We have chosen to focus initially on just the pre- and post-GCSE group, with a longer term aim to carry this further down the educational system and similarly to widen it out to the general public.'
The Schools Malaria Project is funded under the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) Semantic Grid and Autonomic Computing programme.