Researchers asking to use your computer to find potential treatment for COVID-19

Posted at 7:07 AM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 08:07:36-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Researchers in Missouri are on the front lines of finding a medication to treat the coronavirus, and they need your help.

Literally, they need the help of anyone with a computer.

Through a program called Folding@Home, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis can take the large, complicated calculations needed to break down the virus and assign smaller calculations to computers with the program.

Splitting the work between thousands of computers allows researchers to get answers a lot faster. Time is of the essence as the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the world.

The program runs multiple simulations to find out how the proteins that make up the coronavirus act. It then searches for the best time to attack those proteins with different medications, which could translate into a cure for people who have COVID-19.

“And then we’re planning to put the data out there for other scientists to look at because, given the time sensitive nature, it’d be great if someone else spots something that we didn’t and together we can make some progress,” explained Dr. Greg Bowman, the director of Folding@Home and a professor at Washington University.

The program runs when you want it to, whether that's all the time or only when you're not using the computer.

This month, Bowman said hundreds of thousands of people have signed up for the program, which previously only had tens of thousands of participants. 41 Action News Meteorologist Gerard Jebaily signed up for the program and tipped off the news department to the process.

“It is really exciting to see so many people appreciate what we’re up to and get involved and take such an interest and understanding how it works,” he said. “We’re very grateful for everyone contributing their computer power so we can get as much done as fast as possible.”

Researchers say they take privacy and security seriously. The program only works when you give it permission and it can’t access any files on your computer.

Folding@Home group led to groundbreaking work on Ebola, and scientists apply it to Alzheimer’s and cancer as well.

For information on how to sign up, click here.