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How you can help find a drug to stop coronavirus by not using your computer

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Posted at 6:38 AM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 08:57:02-04

If you're reading this on a computer – really, if you own a working computer – you can help to find a potential treatment for coronavirus.

Folding@Home, a project that uses the collective computing power of thousands of computers around the world to simulate protein dynamics, is tackling SARS-COV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

By downloading the Folding@Home software and letting it run simulations when your computer is idle, like when you’re asleep and totally not scrolling through some quality quarantmemes on phone, you’re helping scientists in the Bowman Lab at the University of Washington in St. Louis understand how the coronavirus’ proteins work, and how to design therapeutics to stop them.

It’s similar to the long-running project SETI@Home, which is unfortunately ending the volunteer program this month. It uses distributed computing to analyze radio telescope data in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and, by the way, if you’re listening, we could use some help here.

By donating your spare computational power to Folding@Home, you’ll be a part of one of the world’s fastest computing systems, running at a speed of about 98.7 petaFLOPS, according to recent statistics from the site. That’s 10 to the 15th power FLOPS. A 98,000 teraFLOPS. The Titan Supercomputer cranks out a measly 20 petaFLOPS.

Folding@Home recently simulated a protein from Ebola virus that was considered undruggable, and after performing experiments confirming that prediction, they’re now on the hunt for drugs to bind to this newly discovered site.

Learn more about the project here.

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