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Home  > e-Science  > News  > IBERCIVIS Initiative: Citizens Can Offer Their Computer Time to Science

IBERCIVIS Initiative: Citizens Can Offer Their Computer Time to Science

 - 30/07/2009

Logotype of Portugal-Spain initiative IBERCIVISAt the end of the e-Science session today at the 2nd Meeting with Science in Portugal – Science 2009, in Room 1 of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation from 11.30 to 13.30, IBERCIVIS, the Voluntary Computing for Scientific Purposes initiative will be presented for the first time in Portugal. The project is being carried out in cooperation with Spain and enables citizens to participate in scientific research in a direct and real time manner, by giving up part of their computers' processing time to carrying out computational calculations of scientific interest through computational procedures distributed in a manner similar to those of Grid Computing.

IBERCIVIS is an initiative which seeks to involve as many citizens as possible in voluntary computing, by using their computers processing ability during the computer's down time to carry out tasks associated with a scientific research project. It aims to bring citizens closer to research and give them the chance to donate their computer's inactive periods of time, to producing scientific knowledge and, at the same time, supply the scientific community with a powerful processing tool.

The computer is changed into an open window on to science, creating a channel for direct dialogue between researchers and society.

The Portugal-Spain cooperation agreements in the area of e-Science which were signed at the 24th Luso-Spanish Summit, on 22 January 2009, in Zamora, Spain, envisaged joint work between Portuguese and Spanish teams to include Portugal within IBERCIVIS, which was started in Spain in 2008, as one more example of Portuguese-Spanish cooperation; this action has the support of The Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) and FCCN – the Foundation for National Scientific Computation in Portugal.

The committed cooperation of  BIFI – the Institute for Biocomputation and Physics of Complex Systems of the University of Zaragoza was complete and fulsome, and enabled a team which also involved researchers and technicians from the Associated Laboratories CNC – Centre for Neurosciences and Cellular Biology and LIP – Experimental Particle Physics and Instrumentation Laboratory, under the coordination of Professor Rui Brito from CNC, to install in record time the systems which enabled the extension of the IBERCIVIS initiative to include the AMILOIDE project, dedicated to the study of Familial Amyloid Polyneuropathy (FAP, commonly known in Portugal as the “Toes Disease”) and to Alzheimer’s disease.

The AMILOIDE project seeks to computationally search through libraries of millions of compounds, for potential drugs which are able to block the formation of aggregates and amyloid fibres in neurodegenerative diseases, with its main targets being FAP and Alzheimer's disease.  This project is run by scientists from the Structural and Computational Biology Group of the Centre for Neurosciences and Cellular Biology (CNC) of the University of Coimbra.

Familial Amyloid Polyneuropathy (FAP) is a hereditary degenerative disease of the peripheral nervous system, initially characterised by alteration in sensibility to temperature and to pain in the lower limbs which progresses to a state of general physical debility in patients, with multiple complications. There are several focal points of the disease in the World, with Portugal being one of the main areas. FAP was identified at the start of the 1950s through the work of Professor Corino de Andrade (1906-2005), and since then constant effort has been made by Portuguese scientists, and others around the world, to describe the disease and search for therapeutic solutions. At present amyloid pathologies do not have a cure. However, with regard to Alzheimer’s disease, various drugs are known to attenuate the symptoms or reduce the rate at which disease spreads. With FAP, the only treatment which has shown itself to be effective is a liver transplant, since this organ is the main place where protein is synthesised (TTR, transthyretin), which is responsible for the formation of amyloid in this disease.

The Gulbenkian 2009 Science Prize, which was awarded on 20 July 2009, was awarded to Maria João Saraiva, a Researcher from the Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology (IBMC) and Senior Professor of Biochemistry at the Abel Salazar Institute for Biomedical Sciences of the University of Porto, and as such was thus awarded to research into FAP, and for the work she carried out into investigating FAP mechanisms, particularly the discovery of the biochemical and genetic mechanisms responsible for the disease, and, more specifically, the formation of amyloid deposits of transthyretin (TTR), especially in the peripheral nerves.

People who wish to join the IBERCIVIS Voluntary Computing for Scientific Purposes Initiative, may do so from 30 July through going to the Internet site, and choosing to collaborate with the AMILOIDE project or any of the projects being undertaken by Spanish scientists under the framework of IBERCIVIS: Trajectory simulations in the future Nuclear Fusion reactor ITER – International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Cadarache, France), joining protein ligands in the search for treatments for certain types of cancer, behavioural simulation of magnetic materials containing impurities, analysis of the structural properties of amino acids and small peptides (sequences of  several dozen amino acids) which act in the brain and the nervous system, simulating the behaviour of light at a nanometric scale which is important for the construction of new materials, developing new computational and communication systems and improving solar panels.  All these projects are described on the IBERCIVIS Internet portal at (

This initiative forms part of the particularly active and successful cooperation between Portugal and Spain in e-Science, coordinated in Portugal by The Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC), particularly under the scope of Grid Computing through the IBERGRID initiative which was launched three years ago and which seeks to manage the Grid Computing facilities of both countries as a common infrastructure, and the linking through a fibre-optic cable in a redundant backbone ring of the actual teaching and research networks of the two countries (RCTS in Portugal and Rede Iris in Spain) in the border areas of Valença and Badajoz.

Last updated ( 21/07/2011 )