The Molecular Sciences Software Institute (MolSSI), based in Virginia Tech’s Corporate Research Center, has been named as a finalist for the 2nd Annual .ORG Impact Award by the Public Interest Registry, the organization that manages the .ORG top-level domains. 

Its nomination comes under the new “Combatting Coronavirus” category, honoring the spring 2020 launch by MolSSI of a an open-source website hub that allows biomolecular scientists from around the world to share computer-aided drug-testing simulations targeting the protein at the center of COVID-19.

There are five finalists is all in this category, the other four being: Carolina for Kibera, a locally informed response to COVID-19 in Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya; Days for Girls International, for their effort, Masks for Millions and Periods Don’t Pause for Pandemics; Heart to Heart International, for its effort to improve

health access, provide humanitarian development, and administer crisis relief worldwide; and The Salvation Army California South Division and its COVID-19 relief actions in Southern California.

The winner will be announced Nov. 30. According to its website, the Public Interest Registry is a Reston, Virginia-based nonprofit created by the Internet Society in 2002 to manage the .ORG top-level domain.

Award winners will receive a donation amounts of up to $30,000 (USD) to an eligible charitable entity of their choice. 

The MolSSI team started work on the COVID-19 website in April 2020, after scores of scientists began discussing ways to share simulation modeling data they had on the coronavirus. The hub allows biomolecular researchers to compare computational models of the COVID-19 virus and to share what findings the scientists have made on drug delivery to the host protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“The nature of this pandemic requires rapid and flexible response. This repository, and the data within, are designed to get the information out quickly. Researchers really wanted to get their data out in front of other scientists even though it had not necessarily been through the peer review process yet,” said T. Daniel Crawford, lead director of the institute and a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry, in May.

The MolSSI was founded in 2016 by Crawford and his co-director colleagues with initial funding from the NSF. Its mission: Form a national team of software scientists to design and build software tools that can help researchers of all stripes tackle complex software projects that will impact basic research ranging from human health to climate change. Member universities, in addition to Virginia Tech and UC-Berkeley, include Iowa State University, Rice University, Rutgers University, the University of Michigan, Stony Brook University, and University of Southern California. 

There were more than 500 nominations across nine .ORG Impact categories, including beside Combatting Coronavirus, there is Promoting Education, Fighting Hunger and Poverty, Championing Equality, Equity, Inclusion, and more. The awards honor “the remarkable organizations and individuals making the world a better place,” according to Public Interest Registry

“In this year marked by so much challenge and change, mission-driven .ORGs are making even more of an impact on the communities and causes they serve and support,” said Jon Nevett, president and CEO of the Public Interest Registry, in a news release. “We celebrate their contributions and recognize that .ORGs are making their communities a better place. We are awed and inspired by their achievements and look forward to announcing the winning .ORGs later this fall.”

Submissions were reviewed and scored by a panel of judges who are leaders in the Internet, non-profit, health, education and marketing sectors. All nominations must be tied to an active website with a .ORG domain, according to the group.

Related story:

Molecular Sciences Software Institute leads design of open-source repository for COVID-19 drug-delivery simulation data