How To Assist Coronavirus Research With [email protected]

How To Assist Coronavirus Research With Folding@Home
Screenshot: David Murphy

Back when I worked at Maximum PC, we were big into Folding. We had a huge team of editors, readers, and computers contributing to Stanford University’s project, which takes your system’s unused resources and dedicates them to protein folding. Your system joins a distributed computing network that processes calculations for the researchers, giving them insight into how to treat ailments like cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, and now COVID-19.

Getting started is easy. Download the [email protected] client for Windows, macOS, or Linux, and install it on a system you regularly use. Launch the app, and it’ll pull up a website where you’ll pick whether you’d like fold proteins anonymously or have a handle associated with your efforts. (Go for fame. Pick the latter.)

It’s here where you’ll be able to select whether you’d like to join a team or not. I recommend finding one, because it’s a fun thing to do in partnership with lots of other people.

That’s all you have to do to get started. Your [email protected] efforts will default to “any disease,” which loops in work related to the virus that causes COVID-19. As director Greg Bowman writes:

“One protein from 2019-nCoV, a protease encoded by the viral RNA, has already been crystallised. Although the 2019-nCoV spike protein of interest has not yet been resolved bound to ACE2, our objective is to use the homologous structure of the SARS-CoV spike protein to identify therapeutic antibody targets.”

Fun! Remember, you can close the [email protected] website if you want; your system will continue to churn out work in the background unless you stop the associated app. Before you close that site, though, I recommend adjusting the amount of power you want your system to use for Folding (in case it’s starting to sound like a jet engine), and whether you want your calculations to run whenever you’re working or only when your system is idle—and, presumably, you are not at your desk.

If you want to have a little more control over your setup, you can use the app’s icon to pull up its advanced controls, which lets you adjust whether you want folding to continue if your system switches to battery power, as well as plenty of other expert-level tweaks if you really want to get the most out of your home setup.

Screenshot: David Murphy

You can even use the “viewer” to see what you’re working on:

Remember, [email protected] is going to use your system’s resources, which could affect the longevity of your components (and the size of your power bill) depending on how dedicated you are to folding proteins. You’re doing great work in helping out, but don’t go too crazy.

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