What’s faster than the top seven supercomputers in the world, combined? Everyday enthusiasts in their quest to defeat COVID-19, that’s what. They are combining their computing power with the Folding@Home network, which is pushing out an impressive 470 PetaFLOPS of raw compute power, to help the medical community find cures.
As COVID-19 sweeps the world, pushing large portions of the population into isolation, the global community is coming together in ways we never imagined possible. The theme is resounding: ‘we are in this together’. Folding@Home found a way to join the fight against this silent killer by furthering research into possible cures and/or vaccines.
Folding is the way human protein folds in the cells that make up your body. Those proteins keep us healthy and they assemble themselves by folding. It’s when they don’t fold properly that can cause serious health problems. Folding@Home is a project that focuses on disease research. More specifically, it’s a distributed computing project for performing molecular dynamics simulations of protein dynamics. Its initial focus was on protein folding but has shifted to more biomedical problems, such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, Ebola and COVID-19.
Folding@Home uses computer simulation to predict the dynamics of diseases, like COVID-19, and understand the proteins’ moving parts. Watching how the atoms in a protein move relative to one another is important because it captures valuable information that is inaccessible by any other means. Taking the experimental structures as starting points, scientists and engineers can simulate how all the atoms in the protein move, effectively filling in the puzzle pieces that experiments miss. This can reveal new opportunities – new ways to render the virus ineffective and powerless against human immune systems.
Their only roadblock is that they are solving so many problems that they don’t have enough computing power to do it on their own. That’s where we come in. By sharing our unused GPUs, they can push their research exponentially faster toward potential cures by harnessing thousands of idle personal and corporate computers, giving researchers access to an unprecedented amount of computing horsepower.
ESI North America recently redirected all high-performance idle systems (thanks to the nation’s work from home orders), creating TEAM ESI. In doing so we have joined thousands of others, including SUMMIT, an already impressively fast Gigabyte G481-S80 server armed with a whopping eight Nvidia Tesla P100-SXM2's, who are all working together to uncover a way to stop COVID-19.
Folding@Home reports that it has seen a 1,200% increase in contributors, with Bitcoin miners also joining the fight, and over 400,000 new volunteers joining over the last two weeks.
Gilbert Rodriguez and James Hartley, two of ESI’s top IT professionals, have truly embodied the values within ESI’s culture of passion, social responsibility, and energy to bring this initiative to fruition, working together with our team in France to realign and support the efforts.
Do you have an old computer stashed away in your basement that you can fire up and add to the power? What’s your gaming system doing when you’re not competing in a battle royale? Join Folding@Home.
To join, visit https://foldingathome.org/start-folding/ and download the necessary software. Follow the simple instructions to finish the connection, then, while you go on with your every day (safely distanced) activities, your computer will be working to help find cures for COVID-19.
Downloading Folding@home and helping to power simulations is a great way to contribute to the fight. These calculations are enormous, and every little bit helps! Each simulation your computer runs is like buying a lottery ticket. The more tickets we buy, the better our chances of hitting the jackpot. There is a lot of valuable science to be done and you could be the difference.
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