BioBlox is an interactive platform combining: 3D, 2D and 1D visualisations, interactions, audio feedback (sonification). It is also being designed to become a puzzle gaming which can be played solo or in teams, where for example each team-member controls one molecule (target or candidate for docking).
We address the docking of molecules onto a given target molecule (typically a protein). Such a molecular target offers a complex 3D form with many pockets, holes and textured regions — imagine a moon-like surface wrapped around a 3D folded ribbon—on its bounding surface where other (usually much smaller) molecules can come by and bind to. The process is dynamic in that each such molecule has a bounding form which slightly deforms upon interactions and under the constant bombardment of tiny water molecules (in vivo simulation). This problem is key to the understanding of all cellular processes and in particular to the practical application of drug design.
Crowd sourcing of complex scientific problem is still in its infancy, but is gaining grounds and approval by the scientific communities. Early examples include SETI@home (search for extra terrestrial life) and GalaxyZoo (classification of galaxies). More recent and directly relevant projects are FoldIt and EteRNA: on-line scientific puzzle-solving games about folding proteins and RNA.
BioBlox is supported in part by the BBSRC in the form of a 3.5 year research grant.