Across our island, many people are helping to combat the coronavirus – whether it be on the frontline, or with a quiet courage to stay at home. A handful of people on the Isle of Man are also actively contributing to find a treatment for the virus by donating some background computing power from their home computers (and game consoles). These Manx people are simulating the dynamics of coronavirus proteins to hunt for new therapeutic opportunities as part of the global “Folding@Home” project.

The folding at home interface

This project takes complicated scientific analysis, distributes it to millions of computers globally, and harnesses that power to understand more about the virus to try to find a cure. This means that your computer(s) at home can help – it requires no fancy equipment to contribute. Every little bit helps to complete the mathematical analysis, and the Folding@Home team say that each simulation you run is like buying a lottery ticket. The more tickets we buy in this calculation, the better our collective chances of hitting the jackpot.

This is how the scientists describe the work:

To help tackle coronavirus, we want to understand how these viral proteins work and how we can design therapeutics to stop them.

There are many experimental methods for determining protein structures. While extremely powerful, they only reveal a single snapshot of a protein’s usual shape. But proteins have lots of moving parts, so we really want to see the protein in action. The structures we can’t see experimentally may be the key to discovering a new therapeutic…

Our specialty is in using computer simulations to understand proteins’ moving parts. Watching how the atoms in a protein move relative to one another is important because it captures valuable information that is inaccessible by any other means.

Dr Greg Bowman, 15 March 2020

How to join the Isle of Man Team to help find a treatment for Coronavirus

  1. Download Folding@Home 
  2. When given an option, choose the team number 64467
  3. Let the Folding@Home program run in the background

Some other notes:

  1. Conducting this research on your home computer obviously uses your equipment. This includes theoretical wear and tear on your computer, and also some amount of electricity.
  2. If you don’t have computer(s) to contribute, then Manx Grid Computing are raising money to purchase high-end computer time. They have a Facebook page online here which you can view for more information. I have no association with Manx Grid Computing and have not verified any of their claims.
  3. Of course, please take precautions to help prevent the spread of the virus by washing your hands, social distancing, and obeying the law, etc. This helps to sustain the medical system and buys scientists time to hunt for therapies.