As the national conversation cautiously begins to shift from short-term survival to things like the potential shape of a long-term recovery, we wanted to revisit what it looks like to proactively contribute as members of the economy as well as of the community.
In my letter to customers and employees, I shared that the Crelate team was donating CPU power to a project called Folding@Home, to help members of the scientific community accelerate the search for a cure to COVID-19. We’ve had many people ask what this is all about, what it does, how it works, and how it might help.
I’ve always been a futurist. I believe in the good of humanity and I’ve always seen science at the forefront of positive change in the world. By its nature, science continuously improves, and this improvement is shared. The cycle never ends, and we are all better off for it. I’ve been contributing to Folding@Home on and off for almost 15 years now for that reason. It’s a great program and it’s a cool way that I can help advance humanity forward, even if only nip.
Because of all the positive questions that I’ve gotten from our team and customers, I thought I’d take a moment share more about the project.
What is Folding @ Home?
Folding@Home, or FAH is a globally distributed computing platform started by Pande Laboratory at Stanford University in October of 2000. The project provides a mechanism for an unlimited number of computers to work together to solve complex computational problems.
The project is focused on molecular dynamic simulations. Proteins are a type of molecular machine that are the workhorses of many aspects of life. These proteins are very complex and understanding how they behave (or misbehave) can help researchers find therapies for a wide range of diseases including cancer, Huntington’s, and Alzheimer’s.
Importantly, viruses have proteins too, which is why this project is able to help find new therapies for viruses like Ebola and COVID-19. Wikipedia has an excellent article on the project, if you’d like to learn more.
Folding @ Home Protein Structure Simulation
How does my computer help?
When you sign up for Folding@Home, your computer joins the ranks of hundreds of thousands of other computers. Together, this “grid” of computers stands by for small units of work to be sent to them for processing. Because it’s not possible for two computers to work on the exact same thing at the same time, the Folding@Home system breaks large problems into smaller problems that can be discretely handled by individual machines. When your machine downloads the Work Unit it gets to work.
By default, Folding@Home waits until you are not using your computer to do its work. This otherwise “idle” time is used to crunch the numbers. You configure this to give more or less of your machine’s power to the project. The faster your computer, and the higher priority you make Folding@Home, the faster the work gets done and returned to the Folding@Home servers.
The process is somewhat similar to mining Bitcoin, the but the benefits to society are potential cures and medicines for a wide range of diseases including COVID-19.
Does it really work?
The short answer is yes. The project has many of their results published here. While, the project doesn’t usually create “eurekas”, it continuously provides researchers with new levels of understanding and potential therapies to test against target molecules. To date, the project has been used in over 200 peer reviewed research papers.
How is this helping fight COVID?
In February, the Folding@Home team partnered with TODO to develop a project to understand the protein “spikes” of the Coronavirus. You can read about the project and progress at the following links:
- February 27, 2020 – Folding@Home takes up the fight against COVID-19 / 2019-nCoV
- March 30, 2020 – New COVID-19 small molecule screening simulations are running on full Folding@Home!
How can you or your business help?
To date, the Crelate team has donated over 2,100 work units. This makes our Team #4193 out of 248,041 total teams. These numbers change daily. If you would like to join us, simply download the Folding@Home client here and join Team #234725.
In the meantime: wishing the absolute best to you, your colleagues, your family and friends in these strange times.
Here’s to recovery in all its forms.