The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is contributing to the fight against COVID-19 by donating computing resources to the Folding@home project. The Folding@home project is a distributed computing project for simulating the dynamics of protein molecules to cure diseases like COVID-19, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
CERN will be contributing 10,000 computer cores from its main data center, but this accounts for up to a third of the total ‘work units’ that the research center has completed for Folding@home. The rest comes from contributions made directly by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) computing sites. Combining the two, the CERN and LHC computing team became the 87th biggest contributor to the project as of April 21.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, the Folding@project has seen more than a 1,200% increase in the number of folders. The maximum collective computing power of the distributed system now stands at almost 2.5 exaFLOPS, making is more than that of the top 500 supercomputers combined.
With our collective power, we are now at ~2.4 exaFLOPS (faster than the top 500 supercomputers combined)! We complement supercomputers like IBM Summit, which runs short calculations using 1000s of GPUs at once, by spreading longer calculations around the world in smaller chunks! pic.twitter.com/fdUaXOcdFJ
— Folding@home (@foldingathome) April 13, 2020
This computation power will be used to improve our understanding of the internal structure of the coronavirus with the help of computer simulations. Computer simulations play an important role in protein sequencing for determining how the three-dimensional structure of proteins can change over time. This can reveal target sites where potential drugs can be used to attack the protein and cause it to malfunction thereby effectively inoculating the virus.