MNTC partners with Stanford to run program hoping to create vaccine for COVID-19

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – The fight to find a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is happening in Norman. 

Computers at the Moore Norman Technology Center running a program daily, that’s usually working to find a way to prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Brittle Bone disease. 

Now it’s working to help find a vaccine for COVID-19.  

“All of these diseases affect somebody one way or another… this is the 21st century research method,” said virtualization instructor Tommy Hamilton. 

The Moore Norman Technology Center partnered with a researcher from Stanford University for the program. 

Here’s how it works: proteins make up part of the human body. 

According to Hamilton, a protein does something called “misfolding,” which can cause disease. 

The computers at MNTC are running simulations of these proteins, to try and figure out what and where things went wrong. 

“They can go back in the simulation and see where everything may have been okay and the all of a sudden it started going wrong and they can look at see what the exact circumstances were at that point in time so they can try to help develop medicines or treatments for it,” said Hamilton. 

There are millions of ways proteins can fold or “misfold.”

To simulate all the possibilities, they need all the computers they can get. 

“It’s like making a cake- let’s put this ingredient, this ingredient, this ingredient and see what it tastes like. Well, that’s the same thing that’s going on here except they’re doing it millions of times,” he said. 

This is where MNTC comes in: donating their computer time. 

Hamilton says he lost his grandmother to Alzheimer’s, which is what motivated him to get the school involved in this six years ago. 

Now that COVID-19 has swept the world, the computers have been working specifically on this. 

“I’m not a biology researcher but I’m okay with IT. I’ve turned a computer on once or twice and so I thought, ‘you know what let’s use our machines here for a greater good,’” said Hamilton. 

Now that students are working from home, the servers at MNTC are working on this overtime. 

So much so that the progress made by MNTC is ranked 58 out of 250,000 others around the world working on the same thing. 

“Right out of Norman, Oklahoma in our nice technology center, we have such amazing support from our administration,” he said. 

Hamilton says it’s not just about the science, it’s about teaching the students to give back in a unique way. 

All of the information is recieved and sent automatically from Stanford researchers. 

You can actually participate in this program on your computer at home. 

To find out how visit this website, and for more details on protein folding you can visit here.

To be a part of the virtualization classes at MNTC you can visit their website here.

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