Eli Lilly, the fourth largest U.S. pharmaceutical firm, has added a Cray-2 supercomputer to the arsenal of tools it's applying to the development of new drugs.
Because pharmaceutical research rests upon complex molecular modeling—remember those colored Ping-Pong balls and straws from high school chemistry?—the arrival of the supercomputer is expected to speed up the research process. The Cray-2 enables researchers to "build" proteins and enzymes, depict them on monitors, and simulate their interaction with experimental pharmaceutical compounds. Using the computer, scientists can rotate, assemble, disassemble, and view chemical structures in a fraction of the time previously required.
Lilly scientists and researchers have undertaken training in supercomputer operation and are applying the Cray-2 to the search for cures or treatments for AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, and other currently intractable medical challenges.