How personal computers can be used to support COVID-19 research

Monika Song on how Folding@Home (F@H), a crowd-sourcing project, uses the hardware of users worldwide to draw insights into Covid-19.

Monika Song
23rd March 2020
Folding@Home (F@H), a crowd-sourcing project, uses the hardware of users worldwide to draw insights into Covid-19.

The project was established 20 years ago in 2000 at Stanford University and has been since moved to the School of Medicine at Washington University. The name of the project derives from its central research focus, protein folding. The software runs simulations of proteins dynamics on processors (CPU) and graphics card (GPU) of volunteer computers to research diseases including breast cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Researchers are currently working on developing a cure for SARS-COV-2, better known as the viral cause for Covid-19. On March 10, Folding@home introduced the first batch of simulations of SARS-COV-2. 

This means users at home can contribute to the vital Covid-19 research by downloading and running the software while engaging in other tasks: “Each simulation you run is like buying a lottery ticket. The more tickets we buy, the better our chances of hitting the jackpot. Usually, your computer will never be idle, but we’ve had such an enthusiastic response to our COVID-19 work that you will see some intermittent downtime as we sprint to setup more simulations.” (Greg Bowman, March 15, 2020)

The distributed computing project has been met with great popularity, especially from the gaming community, with its servers initally overwhelmed by the increase of participating work units. However, they have since been working on expanding their servers with cloud computing solutions and continue to seek and welcome contributions.

F@H hopes to maintain its current support for their long-term plans in stopping and preventing future outbreaks from mutations as well as in their fight against cancer and other diseases.

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