Foldit, a collaborative app to contribute to research against covid-19

Foldit is a video game that allows anyone to do their bit to contribute to the design of drugs in research against covid-19.

The application of drugs to combat the coronavirus focuses on the symptoms. This symptomatic treatment has the potential to improve infection. But there is still much to know about the new virus and, above all, what compounds can inhibit its reproduction. To contribute to the research of these drugs, there is a free game accessible to all: Foldit.

Foldit’s objective is to bring together the collaborative force of people. Anyone with a computer or other computer equipment can play with this application. And in this way you will be helping the research of drugs to combat covid-19. The initiative comes from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, specifically from researcher David Baker. This scientist’s job is to modify proteins for specific tasks.

In the midst of the pandemic, Baker has proposed using Foldit for a specific task: finding proteins that inhibit the action of the virus. More specifically, it seeks to inhibit the attack force of the virus, so to speak, which are the ‘spike’ proteins. These are the ones that attach to some human cells and allow the virus to penetrate its outer membrane to multiply inside.

It is these ‘spike’ proteins that Baker wants to inhibit with other proteins, which cling to the former. In this way, the virus will have no way of binding with human cells and will not be able to reproduce. And the collaborative work of Foldit is to find this type of protein.

investigación sobre el Covid-19

Proteins are composed of amino acids. With these, users have to play to design proteins with certain specifications. Scientists count on people’s creativity. The application brings together many people, from different places and without connection between them, thinking differently.

A collective effort

In the current pandemic context, research against covid-19 is carried out in many countries. It is an effort that although not coordinated, it is collective. The Foldit application offers the opportunity to also be massive. Users of the game have already created more than 20,000 different designs for potential antiviral proteins. Then the scientists’ job is to test the most promising ones.

The effort comes from all angles. From the collaborative aspect of crowdsorcing, which represents Foldit, to the great computing power. The Summit supercomputer, located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, is also working to find drugs to fight the coronavirus. There are 148.6 petaflops at the service of the investigation against covid-19.

At the same time, a race against the clock is developing for having a vaccine. There are advances in this area, including those from China, where they previously dealt with the virus. Although the vaccine is not expected to be available until after at least a year from now.

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