RESEARCH REPORT: New anti-malarial compound identified

Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach. Her regular column features local science news. Any comments, contact

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By Lynne Friedmann


Despite global eradication efforts, malaria remains endemic in many parts of the world. Upwards of 247 million cases of malaria and nearly one million deaths — mostly among children living in Africa — occur annually. Now, comes word of a promising drug candidate that represents a new class of drugs to treat the disease.

Frustrated after drug-development methods based on known molecular interactions were failing to product interesting compounds, researchers took a completely different tack: They applied cell-based screening to 12,000 purified natural products yielding 275 compounds with anti-malarial activity. Subsequent screens eliminated those toxic to mammalian cells as well as compounds with little activity against drug-resistant parasites that transmit malaria through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Seventeen compounds remained from which one compound – never before associated with anti-malarial activity — emerged as promising. Clinical trials for the compound are planned for later this year.

This was an international effort led by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute, Swiss Tropical Institute, Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, and Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases. The finding appears in the journal Science. News release at


Using DC power

A consortium of public and private-section researchers have embarked on a real-world experiment to gauge whether large computing facilities can operate on less power by eliminating alternating current (AC).

In late August, engineers at UCSD switched a set of servers in a campus data center to operate continuously on 380-volt direct current (DC). In a traditional server facility AC power is provided at a high voltage and converted to DC to charge batteries and condition the power. From there it is converted back to AC to drive the power supplies of computing equipment. Skipping or consolidating these conversion steps can save considerable electricity usage.

The experiment at UCSD is part of Project GreenLight, a National Science Foundation-funded initiative that has deployed a modular data center on campus with sensors and other instruments to measure the energy efficiency of information and communication technologies – and to help researchers build greener IT systems and software. More information at


Improving smartphone battery life

Most smartphone users spend their time running a core set of applications, and they demand long battery life. A new chip prototype under development by UCSD computer scientists improves smartphone efficiency by making use of "dark silicon" — huge swaths of silicon transistors on today's chips that are underused because there is not enough power to utilize all the transistors at the same time.

The new GreenDroid chip prototype will deliver improved performance through specialized processors designed to run heavily used chunks of code in Google's Android smartphone platform. While chipmakers can now make similar types of specialized processors by hand, the UCSD computer scientists developed a fully automated system that generates blueprints for specialized processors from source code extracted from applications. News release at


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