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Your Computer Can Help Scientists Find a Cure for COVID-19


More than 200,000 volunteers around the world are helping to find potential treatments for COVID-19 — by running simulations on their home computers and laptops.

While vaccines are starting to be rolled out, the hunt continues for effective treatment for those infected with the virus.

The initiative is a collaboration between distributed computing organization Folding@home and COVID Moonshot, a crowdsourced project to accelerate the development of COVID-19 antivirals. Amazon Web Services (AWS) — Amazon's on-demand cloud computing platform — has donated servers to the project.

Distributed computing allows anyone with a home computer, laptop, or virtual machine to contribute computing power to a common cause — in this case, to simulating the process of protein 'folding'. The COVID-19 initiative has harnessed the computing power of more than 1 million personal devices. Folding@home volunteers take part in one-week "sprints" where they can choose to direct all of their computing power to running molecular simulations.

The combined computing power from over 200,000 volunteers has allowed scientists to study the Nsp16 protein within the SARS-COV-2 virus.

These sprints "have helped sort through tens of thousands [of] potential molecules to synthesize to address difficult questions in optimizing the binding of COVID Moonshot lead compounds," say Maggie Carter and Grace Kitzmiller of the AWS Disaster Response Program.

The project has amassed one of the world's largest public protein simulation databases, which Folding@home is now sharing as an open data set on AWS, so researchers around the world can easily access this data to speed up the search for COVID-19 therapies.

From World Economic Forum
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