How You Can Help COVID-19 Researchers With Your Home PC / Laptop

How To's Aug 27, 2020
TL;DR You can help scientists simulating the dynamics of COVID-19 proteins to hunt for new therapeutic opportunities or even vaccine for COVID-19 using your home PC or laptop.

Scientists are using supercomputers for several challenging tasks, such as understanding how the virus spreads in a community, how it infects the human body, as well as for possibly finding a cure and vaccine.

According to The White House press release, supercomputers can process massive numbers of calculations related to bioinformatics, epidemiology, and molecular modeling, helping scientists develop answers to complex scientific questions about COVID-19 in hours or days versus weeks or months.

But, there aren’t enough supercomputers in the world for all the protein simulating that needs to be. One solution is using distributed-computing, which lets anyone with a computer or laptop join a grid and then use the collecting computing power to do simulations. One of many distributed-computing project out there is Folding@home.

About Folding@home

You may not have a supercomputer at home (and should not having it), but that doesn't mean your Home PC or laptop can't do nothing in the fight against the coronavirus-caused COVID-19. This where Folding@home come to play to organized tens of thousands of ordinary personal computers (like yours) to break down big digital simulations of the virus that causes the disease into millions of bite-size chunks.

The goal of Folding@home is to understand protein folding, the diseases that result from protein misfolding and aggregation, and novel computational ways to develop new drugs.

How Does It Works?

To help scientists trying to create a vaccine for COVID-19, you have to download Folding@home software, install it, and then let it run as it simulate the virus proteins. That is it.

You may continue your daily activities as normal, while the software works as a background process to fetches a small processing job from the organization's servers, runs its calculations using your idle CPU/GPU time, then returns results to be incorporated into research studies.

Folding@home App Client

When it's done, your machine fetches the next job. By doing so, Folding@Home is able to run complex calculations on millions of PCs which all help towards the research of protein folding.

* Your computer may complete a assigned tasks (Work Unit) in a few hours, or a few days, depending on a number of factors.
* If you have PC game specs / cryptocurrency miners, you can do calculations and assigned tasks faster than regular PC without high spec GPU.  

Fold with Team

We’re in this together. After downloading the software, join the Folding@home team (#267146).

Folding@home Web Control

Notes and Skeptics

No one can promise breakthroughs from Folding@home. And distributed computing has skeptics, such as Priya Darshan Vashishta, a University of Southern California professor and expert in atomic-level simulations, who aren't convinced the technique is an effective way to simulate the complicated reality of biochemistry.

Simulations must track the state of countless electrically interacting atoms, sometimes over relatively long distances across a protein. The protein's environment can also change its behavior.

Tracking all those interactions requires the different simulation elements to constantly communicate, and that requires a high-performance computer with fast internal communications, Vashishta says.

"This communication is very good if you have a supercomputer. That's what they're designed for," he said, adding that distributed computing can't handle the task effectively.

Credits and Further Reading:

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