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Scientists Need Your Help to Find Treatments for Coronavirus

Different teams of scientists need the public's help to donate idle computing power and solve puzzles to fight Covid-19.

by Matthew Gault
Mar 3 2020, 7:35pm

Screengrab: YouTube

Scientists are working to find a treatment or vaccine for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and they want the public's help.

Researchers have discovered the portion of Covid-19 that allows it to infect humans, and now you can help separate teams of scientists find a way to neuter the virus's power either by donating computing power or by playing a competitive online video game.

Folding@home is a Stanford-founded distributed computer network that pulls power from machines all over the planet to simulate protein foldingthe creation of a protein’s unique shapeand drug design. Similarly to SETI@home, the Berkley based project that uses home computers to search for alien life, Folding@home runs in the background and uses your computer when you aren’t to help Stanford run protein folding simulations. You can download the program here. Now, Folding@home has turned its computer network to the task of fighting the coronavirus.

“We are uniquely positioned to help model the structure of the 2019-nCoV spike protein and identify sites that can be targeted by a therapeutic antibody," Folding@home said in a post explaining the project. We can build computational models that accomplish this goal, but it takes a lot of computing power.” If you want to take a more active role in the hunt for a protein to combat coronavirus, the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington has a game for you.

Foldit is a game where players compete and collaborate to build the proteins and amino acids. It’s like an active version of Folding@home where players actually physically manipulate digital simulations of molecules. Foldit has launched a coronavirus puzzle with the aim of finding a protein to neutralize its spike.

“This protein, called the coronavirus spike protein, allows the coronavirus to infect human cells,” Foldit scientist Brian Koepnick said in a YouTube video announcing the puzzle. “We wanna give Foldit players the opportunity to design proteins that bind to this spike protein and prevent infection.”

The puzzle is a fun way to allay your fears of the virus while actively working on a solution. But, with both projects, it’s important to remember that a simulated cure is just the beginning of the process of developing a vaccine. “We do want to emphasize that, like all the research we do, laboratory testing takes time to make sure these molecules are safe and effective against coronavirus,” Koepnick said.

Every possible solution will need to go through a battery of tests to make sure it’s safe and effective. That takes time. In the meantime, keep washing your hands and click here to start playing Foldit.

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