Folding@Home (FAH) is a distributed computing project started in 2000. The project uses the computing power of anyone who wants to participate from around the world, even if just a single laptop, to find helpful information relating to the Coronavirus, and many other diseases.
Folding refers to the way human proteins fold in the cells that make up your body. Those proteins keep us healthy and assemble themselves by folding, but when they misfold, there can be serious consequences to a person’s health. FAH is dedicated to understanding protein folding, the diseases that result from protein misfolding and aggregation, and novel computational ways to develop new drugs in general.
The project has accomplished a lot in the last 20 years, having identified drug therapies for Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases. It has also been used in drug design for combating HIV and influenza and is used to study how cancer mutates. They have now turned their sights to the Coronavirus.
Will This Result in a Vaccine for Coronavirus?
Essentially, FAH is trying to simulate every possible combination of protein folding patterns, looking for locations that would let medicine take hold and do some sort of good. While you cannot specify that your computer works on the Coronavirus problem and not Alzheimer’s for example, the group is prioritizing the Coronavirus effort.
This distributed research project seeks to identify pharmaceutical treatments and a better understanding of how the proteins in the virus work, not necessarily a vaccine.
This is still incredibly important as it means that research is looking for drugs that can be used to treat patients who already have the virus, as a vaccine would not help in their cases. If FAH is able to discover drug therapies that weaken the virus, it may lead to our immune systems having a better chance to fight the infection. Research for vaccines and drug therapies need to run in parallel, as is the case with Coronavirus.
Who is Participating?
Thousands of users have volunteered to help join FAH in fighting diseases, about 30k before the Coronavirus pandemic. In the past two weeks 400k volunteers are now joined in trying to fight the virus through FAH. The combined processing power of FAH is now faster than the top seven supercomputers in the world, combined.
Miners of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and all other mine-able cryptos have turned their computer processing power over to FAH in an effort to help fight Coronavirus. CoreWeave, the largest US miner on the Ethereum blockchain, is giving up thousands of dollars a day by turning their computing power that is used for mining over to FAH. While these efforts may not find a cure, or vaccine, at a minimum this process will eliminate a lot of dead end treatments for Coronavirus, thus speeding up the discovery of helpful treatments.
You can help too, just head on over to https://foldingathome.org/ to get started.