Nvidia to gamers: Use your GPUs to fight COVID-19

Nvidia to gamers: Use your GPUs to fight COVID-19

Technology News |
By Rich Pell

The company urged PC gamers to donate unused GPU clock cycles on their computers in a distributed computing project for simulating protein dynamics to help improve knowledge of the coronavirus.

“PC Gamers, let’s put those GPUs to work,” said Nvidia in a tweet. “Join us and our friends at @OfficialPCMR in supporting folding@home and donating unused GPU computing power to fight against COVID-19!”

The graphics processing cards in powerful gaming PCs are especially suited for processing huge amounts of data such as that required to run the simulations of protein dynamics that are used to help in developing therapeutics for a variety of diseases. The Folding@home distributed computing project lets computer users participate in these simulations by installing software on their PC, which runs only when the computer is otherwise not being used.

Folding@home has announced that it is now simulating the dynamics of COVID-19 proteins to hunt for new therapeutic opportunities.

“Downloading Folding@home and helping us run simulations is the primary way to contribute,” says Greg Bowman, director of Folding@Home. “These calculations are enormous and every little bit helps! Each simulation you run is like buying a lottery ticket. The more tickets we buy, the better our chances of hitting the jackpot.”

Proteins are “molecular machines” that perform many functions associated with life – they sense the environment, perform work, and play structural roles. They are made of a linear chain of chemicals called amino acids that, in many cases, spontaneously “fold” into compact, functional structures.

“Much like any other machine, it’s how a protein’s components are arranged and move that determine the protein’s function,” says Bowman. “In this case, the components are atoms. Viruses also have proteins that they use to suppress our immune systems and reproduce themselves. To help tackle coronavirus, we want to understand how these viral proteins work and how we can design therapeutics to stop them.”

Folding@Home’s specialty is in using computer simulations to understand proteins’ moving parts. Watching how the atoms in a protein move relative to one another is important, says Bowman, because it captures valuable information that is inaccessible by any other means. Doing so can reveal new therapeutic opportunities.

According to reports, COVID-19 simulations are available for both PCs with GPUs and CPU-only PCs.


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