Gamers Saving The World: Gamers, Companies Create Virtual Supercomputer Researching Ways To Fight Coronavirus

A massive conglomeration of gamers, other people and companies have joined a project enabling them to connect to each other to effectively create a huge computer collating staggering amounts of data to expedite research to combat COVID-19, the coronavirus.

Medicalxpress reports, “The project led by computational biologists has effectively created the world’s most powerful supercomputer that can handle trillions of calculations needed to understand the structure of the virus. More than 400,000 users downloaded the application in the past two weeks from “Folding@Home,” according to director Greg Bowman, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Washington University in St. Louis, where the project is based.”
On February 27, Bowman wrote on the Folding@Home website:
By downloading Folding@Home, you can donate your unused computational resources to the Folding@home Consortium, where researchers working to advance our understanding of the structures of potential drug targets for 2019-nCoV that could aid in the design of new therapies. The data you help us generate will be quickly and openly disseminated as part of an open science collaboration of multiple laboratories around the world, giving researchers new tools that may unlock new opportunities for developing lifesaving drugs …
Low-resolution structures of the SARS-CoV spike protein exist and we know the mutations that differ between SARS-CoV and 2019-nCoV.  Given this information, we are uniquely positioned to help model the structure of the 2019-nCoV spike protein and identify sites that can be targeted by a therapeutic antibody. We can build computational models that accomplish this goal, but it takes a lot of computing power. This is where you come in! With many computers working towards the same goal, we aim to help develop a therapeutic remedy as quickly as possible.
Bowman told AFP, “Our primary objective is to hunt for binding sites for therapeutics … The simulations allow us to watch how every atom moves throughout time.”
Bowman noted that the team responsible for the project had discovered a “druggable” target in the Ebola virus, adding, “The best opportunity for the near-term future is if we can find an existing drug that can bind to one of these sites. If that happens it could be used right away.” The Folding@Home website noted, “For example, in our recent paper, we simulated a protein from Ebola virus that is typically considered ‘undruggable’ because the snapshots from experiments don’t have obvious druggable sites. But, our simulations uncovered an alternative structure that does have a druggable site. Importantly, we then performed experiments that confirmed our computational prediction, and are now searching for drugs that bind this newly discovered binding site.”
Medicalxpress wrote, “Bowman said the project has been able to boost its power to some 400 petaflops—with each petaflop having a capacity to carry out one quadrillion calculations per second—or three times more powerful than the world’s top supercomputers … The Folding@Home project is fueled by crowdsourced computing power from people’s desktops, laptops and even PlayStation consoles, as well as more powerful business computers and servers.
Quentin Rhoads-Herrera of the security firm Critical Start commented, “It’s like bitcoin mining, but in the service of humanity.” Hector Martinez, spokesman for the computer chipmaker Nvidia, added, “The response has been record-breaking, with tens of thousands of new users.”
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