16-inch MacBook Pro displaySource: Rene Ritchie / iMore

What you need to know

  • Folding@Home is joining several other researchers in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Folding@Home utilizes the processing power of people's computers who agree to donate their computer's unused power.
  • The joint effort works to "accelerate the open science effort to develop new life-saving therapies."

Folding@Home announced that it's joining the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) today. The organization asks people to donate their computer's processing power to compute solutions to complex problems, including issues related to the spread of the coronavirus. Folding@Home states that the donated computational resources will go to researchers who are "working to advance our understanding of the structures of potential drug targets for 2019-nCoV."

Folding@Home asks people to donate their computer processing power through the Folding@Home program. The combined processing power of several computers can compute complex tasks. In the case of the coronavirus, the processing power would be used to help understand the structure of the viral spike protein that allows the coronavirus to bind to humans' ACE2 receptor. Folding@Home explains the process well in a recent post:

Proteins are not stagnant—they wiggle and fold and unfold to take on numerous shapes. We need to study not only one shape of the viral spike protein but all the ways the protein wiggles and folds into alternative shapes in order to best understand how it interacts with the ACE2 receptor, so that an antibody can be designed.

The computational models required to do this work need a lot of power, so combining computers together can get work done more quickly.

It's important to remember that while you might donate otherwise unused processing power from your computer, that your computer will use more power when running Folding@Home. When setting it up, you'll also want to make sure you select the installation method that you prefer. Selecting 'Express Install" will make the program automatically run when you turn on your compuer. You can choose other options through the custom install option.