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The crowdsourcing computer project Folding @ home has 1 million downloads amidst coronavirus research

Folding @ home software for donating computers to medical research has passed 1 million downloads, director Greg Bowman said in a tweet today. The Folding @ home consortium consists of 11 laboratories around the world that study the molecular structure of diseases such as cancer, ALS and influenza. Research on COVID-19 started earlier this month. Crowdsourcing efforts are now supported by hundreds of thousands of Nvidia GPUs and tens of thousands of AMD GPUs.

According to an Nvidia blog post about the milestone, nearly 400,000 players have donated GPUs for this effort in the past few days.

Folding @ home said it last week crossed the one exaflop in computing power Milestone or overall larger than any supercomputer ever assembled. In comparison, the Summit supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee has repeatedly taken first place in the Top500 supercomputer ranks and can deliver 148 petaflops of computing power.

The computer is used to simulate “potentially drugable protein targets” and to understand how the virus that causes COVID-19 interacts with the ACE2 receptor, according to the Folding @ home website.

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“While we will quickly share the simulation data sets with others for use or analysis, we want to look for alternative conformations and hidden pockets within the most promising drug targets that can only be seen in simulation and not in static X-ray structures.” Organizer John Chodera said in a blog post on March 10th that a number of protein folding projects will start in production.

In another initiative at the intersection of gambling and medical research, the University of Washington introduced FoldIt earlier this month, a riddle to solve protein folding problems. Working on the interface between protein folding and AI, DeepMind of Google published predictions about understaffed proteins related to SARS-CoV-2 that were generated with the latest version of AlphaFold.

A number of open source projects are underway to accelerate progress toward healing. Cloud computing providers in China such as Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent as well as AWS, Google Cloud and Azure in the USA also lend computers to researchers. The CORD-19 data set consists of tens of thousands of scientific papers and was made available to both medical and NLP researchers last week by a group that includes Microsoft Research, the Allen AI Institute, and the White House.

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