Fighting COVID-19: How You Can Download Folding@Home to Join Universities in Battling It

Did you know that you can have unused computer resources help contribute to researching COVID-19 treatments? Join over 11 universities and 1.3+ million users!

Derek Ardolf

6 minute read

UPDATE (03/23/2020): Folding@Home has done an AMA, with the full thread available here.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is officially a pandemic, as stated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Though, did you know that you can have the unused resources of your computers join multiple universities in actively hunting for therapeutic solutions? You do now.

TL;DR Call To Action

Download Folding@Home and checkout the Installation Guide for your system(s) to put unused resources to work.

Want more information about what this means, and how it works? Read on.

Folding@Home

“Folding@Home is a distributed computing research project that involves 11 universities world wide…

Our volunteers are donating computing power. The way this works is a bit like the cloud. We are using really big simulations to better understand protein folding within cancer research, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s…”

— Anton Thynell, Head of Communications and Partnerships for Folding@Home

Now they are researching COVID-19, and anyone can become part of a distributed super computer. If you want a more detailed description of the program, checkout the Wikipedia entry all about it. Here’s a snippet from there:

In March 2020, Folding@home launched a program to assist researchers around the world who are working on finding a cure and learning more about the COVID-19 outbreak. The initial wave of projects simulate potentially druggable protein targets from SARS-CoV-2 virus, and the related SARS-CoV virus, of which there is significantly more data available.

I don’t work in this field.

I don’t understand the science.

You don’t need to, either. They’ve made a nice helpful client for us to easily get running. Others are jumping on board:

Here is my unused gaming rig now sharing the power:

ScriptAutomate / Folding@Home

In my first screenshot, toward the top left, you can see that mine is working on Project 14328 which was automatically assigned to my client. Which project is that? How do I know it is COVID-19 related?

According to the this Reddit post (CPUs and GPUs are both supporting COVID-19 now, so ignore that part of the article title), the related projects are:

Current Corona specific projects (you don’t need to do anything to get them, the software will do it for you):

1453014531 Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 causing virus) protease - potential drug target

14328 - Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 causing virus) protease - potential drug target

11741: Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 causing virus) receptor binding domain in complex with human receptor ACE2.

11746: Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 causing virus) receptor binding domain in complex with human receptor ACE2 (alternative structure to 11741).

11742: Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 causing virus) protease in complex with an inhibitor.

11743: Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 causing virus) protease – potential drug target.

11744: Coronavirus SARS-CoV (SARS causing virus) receptor binding domain trapped by a SARS-CoV S230 antibody.

11745: Coronavirus SARS-CoV (SARS causing virus) receptor binding domain mutated to the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 causing virus) trapped by a SARS-CoV S230 antibody.

All these are under the default “any” selection in settings. We don’t currently have a coronavirus specific selection, so all related projects will be grouped up and sent under the ANY setting to your PC as needed!

Good. This means my GPU is getting put to use!

UPDATE (03/15/2020): BleepingComputer now says:

The Current Folding@home project IDs that correspond with Coronavirus (COVID-19) research are 11741, 11742, 11743, 11744, 11745, 11746, 11747, 11748, 11749, 11750, 11751, 11752, 11759, 11760, 11761, 11762, 11763, 11764, 14328, 14329, 14530, 14531, and 14532.

The overall project listing can be found at the Folding@Home Project Summaries page.

Using the browser client viewer (must first have the fahclient installed and running), people can get a better idea of what is being worked on. Here is a shot later on, when my CPU and GPU were working on some newer work units:

Alt Text

What You Can Do to Join

The client can simply use what resources are free, and can be set to become active when the computer is idle. It will make use of your CPU and/or GPU (graphics/video card).

Straight from the latest Folding@Home article, Coronavirus - What Whe’re Doing and How You Can Help in Simple Terms:

  1. Downloading Folding@home and helping us run simulations is the primary way to contribute. 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. Usually, your computer will never be idle, but we’ve had such an enthusiastic response to our COVID-19 work that you will see some intermittent downtime as we sprint to setup more simulations. Please be patient with us! There is a lot of valuable science to be done, and we’re getting it running as quickly as we can.
  2. _If you don’t have computers to contribute or are feeling particularly generous, you can also make donations through Washington University in St. Louis. These funds are used for a number of purposes, including: 1) supporting our software engineering and server-side hardware (particularly important right now as we scale up rapidly!) and 2) buying compounds to test experimentally based on insight from our simulations._
  3. Of course, please take precautions to help prevent the spread of the virus by washing your hands, social distancing, etc. Doing so helps sustain the medical system and buys scientists time to hunt for therapies.

Dev.To Articles of Note

Other Resources

Discussion / Challenge

Will you join the fight?

Here are the specs of the rig I’m using:

|OS|GPU/Video Card|CPU|Team #*| |–|–|–|–| |Pop!_OS|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960|AMD A6-3500 (Triple-Core)|225605|

*Teams simply track collective work that’s been done by computers, and it gamifies contribution by tracking completed work units in groups. I joined the PCMR team since they got my attention with this via Reddit.

If you’re in, share your own by using my template where you can just add extra rows if you have more than one system:

|OS|GPU/Video Card|CPU|Team #|
|--|--|--|--|
|[Pop!_OS](https://system76.com/pop)|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960|AMD A6-3500 (Triple-Core)|225605|

This article can also be viewed on dev.to

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