Science

Folding@home takes up the fight against COVID-19

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on March 23, 2020 Published on March 23, 2020

Employees working from home can now contribute to supercomputing project against coronavirus

As the world witnesses deadly coronavirus outbreak, computational biophysicist Greg Bowman has launched one of the largest crowdsourced supercomputing projects -- Folding@home -- to develop vaccines against the pandemic, as per the official release of Washington University School of Medicine.

Bowman, who is an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has urged people to contribute to his new venture and join the fight against the novel coronavirus. The project relies on the collective power of volunteers’ home computers to perform the complex calculations required to simulate protein dynamics.

Anyone can volunteer for the project. Volunteers need to install a software program that runs the complex calculations when a computer is not in use. Participants also get to select which area they want to contribute to. The areas include -- boosting cancer research, battling Alzheimer’s disease, and fighting the novel coronavirus outbreak.

According to Washington University’s official website, Bowman and his team are trying to understand the structure of COVID-19’s spike protein, which is what the virus uses to infect cells. The report further mentioned that such research could reveal ways to block the protein and, consequently, infection.

Bowman observed that the number of volunteers has skyrocketed after the project incorporated the study of the novel coronavirus, with some 400,000 new folders joining the effort.

Bowman said in a statement: “The response so far has been overwhelming and wonderful, but there is always more useful science to be done.”

He further added that understanding all the various shapes that the spike protein can take on as its molecules bounce and shift can lead to the development of new drugs that can block it, stopping the virus from infecting more cells. He added: “We are continuing to scale up our research as fast as we can.”

Bowman has recently shared on the official website of Folding@home the first glimpse of the moving COVID-19 spike protein. According to his research team, It consists of three different proteins that fit together like a 3D puzzle. The simulation reveals a pocket that helps the virus bind to human cells and infects them.

Meanwhile, Bowman has also mentioned that interested people who would want to study the development so far can freely access the website.

People can join the project and put their computer to work against coronavirus by logging into https://foldingathome.org.

Published on March 23, 2020
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