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Helping Folding@home Power the World’s Fastest Supercomputer

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FNTS, a leading cloud and IT managed services provider in Omaha, Nebraska, is helping power the fastest supercomputer in the world through a computing project committed to tackling COVID-19.

In February 2019, FNTS began providing in-kind technology support to Folding@home, a research project that uses donated computing power to analyze and fight diseases that result from protein misfolding and mutations inside our body. Humans rely on proteins to live, but when they misfold or misbehave, there can be serious health consequences like cancer and heart disease.

iStock-1203771991-1The Folding@home project is powered by millions of computers running molecular simulations using free and secure downloadable software that’s now being used to help understand the dynamics of COVID-19 proteins in order to prevent viral infection. These simulations require the help of thousands of volunteers, or “citizen scientists,” from all over the world who share their unused computing power. The project has yielded 233 research papers throughout its 20-year history.

Operating one of the most secure, technically advanced data centers in the United States, FNTS began donating its fully managed platforms to Folding@home in 2019. Through the use of high-performing operating systems and cloud services that augment the computing resources of volunteers, FNTS provides Folding@home access to increased bandwidth and storage so results can be efficiently analyzed and delivered.

“Folding@home is a prime example of how technology is increasingly being used in nontraditional ways to further health care research in the fight against diseases such COVID-19,” FNTS president Kim Whittaker said. “With the technology in place to make these complicated simulations possible through FNTS’ partnership with Folding@home, this allows scientists to concentrate on research, analysis and finding cures.”

Below is more information on Folding@home’s COVID-19 research:

  • With more than 3 million devices running Folding@home software, the project broke the exascale computing barrier, making the project the world’s fastest supercomputer. Exascale computing refers to computing systems capable of at least one exaFLOP, or one quintillion floating-point operations per second. To match what one exaFLOP computer system can do in just one second, one calculation would need to be performed every second for more than 31 billion years. This feat is accomplished through community, volunteer and technology partners.
  • More than 700,000 volunteers are running the Folding@home software, up from 30,000 volunteers in February.
  • Folding@home wants to better understand how the virus interacts with the human ACE2 receptor required for viral entry into human host cells. Researchers recently determined the mechanism by which the viral “Spike” opens up to bind ACE2, and are now looking for ways to disrupt or block these interactions. This involves a parallel approach involving the design of new therapeutic antibodies or small molecules.
  • Folding@home is partnering with the COVID Moonshot, a large-scale collaboration looking to crowd-source a low-cost inhibitor to target the main viral protease of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Folding@home is running simulations of promising molecules from the Moonshot to help chemists identify potentially useful directions.

Folding@home, established in 2000 and now run by Greg Bowman at Washington University in St. Louis, now consists of teams from 11 universities around the world that research protein dynamics, how they contribute to human health and disease, and new opportunities for treatment. For more information on Folding@home, please visit foldingathome.org.