To help tackle COVID-19, the long-running Folding@Home program, a distributed computing project for simulating protein dynamics, hit a breakthrough by achieving more than an exaflop of processing power. That’s more than 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 operations per second, all through crowdsourcing efforts.
In just a couple of days, nearly 400,000 gamers donated their GPU resources to build up the Folding@Home supercomputer.
With this power, scientists aim to analyze the dynamics of the COVID-19 protein and hopefully gain better insights into potential drug interactions that can disable the virus.
More specifically, a group of researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are tackling the problem of protein folding for COVID-19, the physical process by which a protein chain acquires its native three-dimensional structure.
“There are many experimental methods for determining protein structures. While extremely powerful, they only reveal a single snapshot of a protein’s usual shape. But proteins have lots of moving parts, so we really want to see the protein in action,” the organization stated in their web page, Coronavirus – What we’re doing and how you can help. “These calculations are enormous and every little bit helps! Each simulation you run is like buying a lottery ticket. The more tickets we buy, the better our chances of hitting the jackpot,” the organization said.
Folding@Home says they were the first distributed computing project to use GPUs for molecular dynamics simulations.
“For certain types of calculations, we’ve seen GPUs give us a 20-30x speedup over their CPU-based counterparts,” the organization stated.
To donate your GPU resources, download the Folding@home software.
(Originally published on March 30, 2020)