FAHcon 2012: Dr. Greg Bowman

Here's a guest post from Dr. Greg Bowman (UC Berkeley) about FAHcon 2012.

I had the opportunity to present two projects at the first Folding@home conference (which was a terrific event!).  The first project focused on new protein therapeutics.  It has long been known that a protein called IL-2 can help stimulate an immune response, so in theory giving people with diseases like immune deficiencies IL-2 could be tremendously helpful.  In practice, however, giving them IL-2 often leads to severe heart problems.  To find a better solution, collaborators at Stanford designed a variant of IL-2 that can stimulate an immune response without causing any side effects.  However, they couldn't understand how it worked because the two proteins had almost identical structures!  Using Folding@home, we showed that IL-2 is a relatively floppy protein while our collaborators' variant is locked into a structure that is poised to stimulate an immune response.  The second project highlighted some new methods I've developed that could allow us to predict such behavior so that next time we can go recruit experimentalists instead of waiting for them to bring us interesting problems.