Folding at Home: Citizen Scientists Join the Fight Against COVID-19


ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— Volunteers from across the globe are coming together to create one of the largest super computers in the world. One that may hold the answers to Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, macular degeneration, the Ebola virus, and even COVID-19. Citizen scientists, computer geeks, school kids, gamers, and pro athletes are using their personal computers to get to the very root of the problem. And you can get involved too. Folding at Home

Greg Bowman is the man behind one of the largest computer crowdsourcing networks called Folding at Home. He is looking to cure diseases, including his own.

“My interest in proteins really stems from a childhood experience of losing most of my vision to a juvenile form of macular degeneration,” said Greg Bowman, PhD, Computational Biophysicist at Washington University School of Medicine.

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Bowman’s eyesight has been fading since second grade. Although legally blind, Bowman is studying proteins. Something so small, that nobody can see them.

“These are the molecular machines that perform most of the active processes associated with life,” shared Bowman.

Breaking down a single protein can take even the most complex of computers a lifetime. So, from his office at Washington University, Bowman is using millions of computers around the world to do the work.

“What we’ve done is devised ways to break these essentially intractable problems up into completely independent pieces that we can send out to many thousands of people to run in parallel,” explained Bowman.

Folding at Home aims to understand how proteins move or fold into their proper shapes to keep our bodies running. Four million people from every country in the world are helping to find the answers.

“It’s kind of like a synergy, like each on their own, independent, wouldn’t be able to achieve what they could achieve when working together towards the same common goal,” stated Mohammad Syed, Citizen Scientist, New Zealand.

“The more computers you contribute the better, but anyone can help accelerate the simulations that we’re performing,” said Bowman.

To download the folding@home software, visit

Many large corporations are already on board. Microsoft, Amazon, Cisco, and Oracle are using their computers to fold. Even pro sports have jumped in to help, including the Spanish professional soccer league. With the new surge of participants, Folding at Home now has more raw computing power than the world’s largest 500 traditional supercomputers combined.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Field Producer; and Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4990

FOLDING AT HOME BACKGROUND: Twenty years ago, Folding at Home was created to understand how proteins self-organize and why this process sometimes goes wrong, causing issues such as cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.  Usage peaked around 2007, until this past March when COVID-19 hit. Scientists learned new ways to target these proteins in structure-based drug design, and findings from the simulations are being used by labs and startups, according to founder, Dr. Vijay Pande.


HOW IT’S HELPING COVID-19: Protein folding is helpful because if researchers find spaces for other molecules to fit in a way that can interfere with the virus’s function, they could potentially harm the virus making it less spreadable or more easily cured. The virus has “spike,” proteins which are a complex of three proteins. Before spike opens, the interface it uses to interact with cells is buried internally; only after it opens can the interface be targeted by drugs. Bowman and his team programmed Folding at Home to hunt for what he called “cryptic pockets” in this interface.


HOW IT WORKS: Folding at Home uses spare home computing power. To participate, you can download the software to your computer and set it to run. The program then downloads “work units” and processes them to send the data back. You can use your computer as you normally would, but while you work, play, stream or browse, you’ll be helping fight disease. The more people that get involved, the more processing power there is to simulate the protein folding and the faster results will be achieved. Folding at Home has been tested and the servers for it are behind high-security firewalls to keep everything secure.




If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Greg Bowman, PhD, Computational Biophysicist

Read the entire Q&A