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This free software lets you fight coronavirus without lifting a finger

Published Mar 16th, 2020 11:39PM EDT
Coronavirus: How to help
Image: Jim Mone/AP/Shutterstock
  • The team behind the Folding@Home software is joining researchers to help fight the coronavirus.
  • You can participate by downloading the free software and letting it run in the background while you’re doing other things on your computer or while your computer is idling.
  • If you need that computing power to perform a task, simply turn Folding@Home off.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Although not everyone is in the same boat (at least not yet, anyway), chances are that you’re stuck at home for the foreseeable future. You might feel helpless, wondering what you can do to help other than sit on your couch and try not to become infected or infect anyone else. Well, if you have a computer at your disposal, there is a way that you can assist in the fight against the coronavirus by simply downloading a free program.

Back on February 27th, the team behind the Folding@Home project announced that it would join with researchers in an attempt to learn more about the novel coronavirus and help develop therapies that could save lives. If you’ve never heard of Folding@Home before, it is described as “a distributed computing project for disease research that simulates protein folding, computational drug design, and other types of molecular dynamics.” All you have to do to contribute is download the software, turn it on, and leave it running in the background.

“After initial quality control and limited testing phases, Folding@home team has released an initial wave of projects simulating potentially druggable protein targets from SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and the related SARS-CoV virus (for which more structural data is available) into full production on Folding@home,” computational chemist John Chodera said in a new update on the Folding@Home website. “Many thanks to the large number of Folding@home donors who have assisted us thus far by running in beta or advanced modes.”

A few days after Chodera’s update, NVIDIA teamed up with the PC Master Race subreddit to call on all PC gamers to give up some of their GPU’s computing power in order to help with the Folding@Home project:

The more people that participate, the faster Folding@Home is able to work through simulations, and that may end up getting us one step closer to a treatment or a vaccine. As Chodera explained in his post, the early projects will focus on how the coronavirus interacts with our ACE2 receptor and how we might be able to interrupt that process with therapeutic antibodies or small molecules. And, once again, you can help.

All you have to do is download the software from this website, install it on your computer, and you’ll be taken to a web viewer where you can control the amount of computing power you want to be using as well as the research you want to support. There is not a specific “coronavirus” option, but if you tell Folding@Home you want to fight “any disease,” you will receive coronavirus-related projects as they are needed.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.