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Researchers turn to PC gamers for help with COVID-19

Update: Folding@home downloaded onto over one million devices

Original story, March 18, 2020: PC gamers are being asked to donate their unused computational power to help researchers better understand the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Folding@home is a distributed computing project for disease research which uses idle resources to simulate protein folding.

By downloading Folding@home, PC gamers can help researchers develop treatments for COVID-19, which has so far killed over 8,000 people and caused global disruption.

"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," said Folding@home director Greg Bowman in a post detailing the project.

Early projects are geared around understanding how the virus interacts with human host cells, and developing new antibodies to disrupt it.

Folding@home intends to make the data readily available to researchers and the public.

"While we will rapidly release the simulation data sets for others to use or analyse, we aim to look for alternative conformations and hidden pockets within the most promising drug targets, which can only be seen in simulation and not in static X-ray structures," said Folding@home computational chemist John Chodera.

"We hope that these structures -- once validated by emerging compound screening data -- could help direct the virtual screening campaigns or the targeting of new pockets for which atomistic structures were not yet available."

Update, March 31, 2020: Folding@home is running on over one million devices, according to organisation director Greg Bowman.

This includes over 356,000 on Nvidia GPUs, over 79,000 AMD GPUs, and over 593,000 CPUs.

"Thanks to all our volunteers," said Bowman on Twitter. "We're planning more blog posts on our #COVID19 work/results this week, please stay tuned."

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