How to help in the COVID-19 fight with your PC or laptop

folding@home pc laptop covid-19 pandemic

Did you know that you can contribute to the fight against the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic from the comforts of your own home? Just turn on your PC or laptop, and get folding!

[email protected] is a distributed computing project developed to simulate how proteins work and move, and then use the data gathered to gain more information about diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, ebola, and now, COVID-19. By downloading their software, you can donate your PC or laptop’s computing power to their cause so they can continue powering up their research.

What is [email protected]? Is it safe?

[email protected] is a project started by Dr. Greg Bowman at the Pande Laboratory in Stanford University. Currently, it’s based at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine and has received support from massive tech organizations like Google, Nvidia, Intel, AMD, and more.

The project essentially harnesses the power of computers all over the world to simulate protein dynamics. And yes, it is completely safe and does not harvest any other data from your unit.

Since its inception in 2000, it has contributed to the worldwide research into Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, cancer, Osteogenesis imperfecta, and viruses like influenza and HIV. Late in February, [email protected] announced that it will start focusing on the newly discovered coronavirus, and since then, some 400,000 new folders joined the effort.

So, how does it work?

It’s a lot of tech mumbo-jumbo but basically, [email protected] is a super computer that tries to run protein simulations of diseases. By understanding how the proteins of a disease work–for example, the coronavirus–researchers will then be able to design therapeutics to stop them. Imagine how much computing power they need if they’re trying to simulate at the atomic level.

That’s where the volunteer computers come in. By installing their program, you’re essentially lending them your spare graphics processing (GPU) power to help them run the calculations. Your PC will be one of the hundreds of thousands of PCs all over the world, working together to run the simulations.

Here’s a glimpse of the [email protected] client. || Photo courtesy of Marco Banaag

As of March 20, [email protected] now has over 470 petaflops of compute power, making it the world’s most powerful super computer of any kind. In perspective, the human brain is estimated to operate at about 1,000 petaflops.

Currently, Dr. Bowman said that their team is trying to understand the structure of COVID-19’s spike protein, which is essentially what the virus uses to infect other cells. Through the help of the computers donating their GPU to the main [email protected] server, they have already arrived at the first stages of understanding this protein. Their simulation revealed that the protein is actually composed of three different proteins that fit together like a 3D puzzle. They’ve also found a pocket that helps the virus bind to human cells and infect them.

Interested in the science? Click here to learn more about [email protected]’s coronavirus project.

I want to contribute!

To start contributing your computer’s GPU power to their cause, download the [email protected] installer here. Once you’ve downloaded the software, it will just run at the background of your computer.

Currently, [email protected] is prioritizing the coronavirus research. So, if you choose “Any disease” in the “I support research fighting” dropdown menu, you may be automatically assigned to the coronavirus project.

Words Jovi Figueroa

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