The Most Convenient & Effortless Way of Fighting COVID-19

TECHNOLOGY​

Abhishek Khandal

April 17, 2020

COVID-19 has taken over the world stage. We witness a puzzling world that is now frozen and standstill because of a virus that doesn’t see the social status of who it visits. Finding ways and means to address this global predicament, both individually and collectively, is perhaps one of the single greatest challenges of the 21st century.

The connectivity we have today gives us ammunition to fight this pandemic in ways we never previously thought possible. Increasing levels of global coordination and cooperation can confront issues that benefit humanity and the planet as a whole.

In the old days, disease research was trial and error, but it is now digitalised. Researchers go exactly down to scale to look at how the proteins fold during a certain amount of time in certain conditions. They need a great extent of computing power because of the way the simulations are structured. They predict the 3D molecular shape and thus the interactions between biological compounds using molecular dynamics simulations. The number of variables in zooming in to the molecular level of protein folding increases simulation complexity so much when it is done independently it will take a hundred years for one computer to crunch the numbers. But, if we have a hundred computers, a thousand computers or more, the project can be distributed to get the results faster. Addressing such challenges requires a new turn in world-consciousness, new ways of adopting technological innovations and forms of digital altruism.

Technology and the Internet offer many opportunities for individuals to act altruistically. It is particularly timely we take into account this digital altruism for COVID-19.

How can I effortlessly contribute to Science?

Whenever you’re not using your computer, your CPU or your graphics card can crunch numbers to help improve our understanding of biology or even develop treatments or drug candidates for diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis and yes COVID-19. We have two options of projects we can contribute to:

  1. [email protected] (RAH) makes the protein structure prediction for several diseases including COVID-19 and only supports computations on CPU.
  2. [email protected] (FAH) leverages the power of GPU making computations quicker and has a different approach than Rosetta.  

FAH works on misfolding related diseases and RAH attempts to steadily predict the protein-docking structure. Both are valuable projects and addressing very different questions with an ultimate aim of deriving computational therapeutics.

If your system has a dedicated Graphics Card (GPU), commonly offered by Nvidia and AMD you can efficiently contribute to FAH. A GPU can crunch numbers exponentially faster than a CPU. RAH only supports computations on a CPU. Some experts run both projects simultaneously, configuring FAH to only utilise GPU leaving the CPU for RAH.

Alternatively, you can also contribute to  other projects varying in nature—from studying global warming to discovering pulsars, modelling three dimensional Milky Way Galaxy to nuclear research by LHC.

Setting up [email protected]

To put your PC in battling coronavirus,

  1.  download the [email protected] installer and run it to install the software. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. 
  2. Once installed, you’ll be taken to the https://client.foldingathome.org page, where you can control the software on your PC. You can choose to fold anonymously or set up an identity.
  3. If you set up an identity, you can track your work and earn points. You can even join a team with other people and compete to see who can earn the most points—just a bit of friendly competition. However, you don’t necessarily need to set up an identity—you can just select “Fold as Anonymous” and click “Start Folding” to begin.
  4. To set up an identity you will need to obtain a passkey. Click here to get one. Input a unique username and your email address where you will receive the passkey. You can join the Global Shaper’s team using the team number 266212. After joining the team, you can find your name in the donor’s list here.       

Voila! You are all set. With [email protected] running on your devices you can contribute to science even as you sleep. 

Each volunteer machine receives a piece of a simulation work unit to be completed by them and return to the project’s database servers where the units are compiled into an overall simulation. Volunteers can track their contributions on the FAH website which makes volunteers participation competitive and encourages long term involvement. FAH is one of the world’s fastest computing systems and the world’s first exaflop computing system this level of performance from its large-scale computing network has allowed researchers to run computationally expensive atomic-level simulations of protein folding exponentially faster than formerly achieved. Since its launch on the 1st of October 2000, the Pande lab has produced over 223 scientific research papers as a direct result of [email protected] results from the project simulations. 

Setting up [email protected]

Joining [email protected] is simple. Download the BOINC app on a compatible device (Windows, Mac, Linux or Android). Then, select [email protected] as your preferred project.
 

That’s it! [email protected] is not for profit, operated by academics and will not collect any of your personal information. You are now actively supporting groundbreaking research that will help us solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Rosetta molecular modelling suite was used to accurately predict the atomic-scale structure of an important coronavirus protein weeks before it could be measured in the lab. Knowledge gained from studying this viral protein is now being used to conduct the design of novel vaccines and antiviral drugs.

Virus's Spike structure prediction | Image courtesy: IPD
Experimental SARS-CoV-2 vaccine | Image courtesy: IPD

You can also contribute to other projects of your liking through the BOINC software. World Community Grid is one such project working on climate research, bacteria, cancer, etc.

Global Shapers for Science!

The onset of lockdown in states around the world made us questionwhat effective way can greatly add support to researchers and healthworkers. As Bill Gates saidcomputers could help halt the next pandemic and this gives us the opportunity to combat the virus right from our home. As of course, what else is your laptop going to do overnight?

Global Shapers
Team Rank
Total teams
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Donor Name Rank Team Contribution

Data here is updated automatically every two hours. Click here for the latest update.

Now more than ever, we need to work together and keep science and high quality research at the forefront of our thinking. We encourage others to join our Global Shapers Folding team and help make a difference, right from their homes. This broad-spectrum approach is conducive to cooperative research and as such, is foundational to vaccine development without expending much effort.

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WRITTEN BY

Abhishek Khandal

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