Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Coronavirus: How your PC's spare computing power could help discover potential COVID-19 treatments

Application from Scripps Research and IBM will conduct experiments to identify chemical compounds that could be used to treat COVID-19 - and all you need to run it is an internet connection.

COVID-19 hackathon: 2,000 developers working on pandemic-related apps
0:43

A new research project will use the processing power of idle computers to help the treatment of coronavirus – and anyone with an internet connection can take part.

The OpenPandemics-COVID-19 project is designed and run by Scripps Research – a non-profit biomedical research facility – and is being hosted by IBM's World Community Grid, a crowdsourced computing resource that draws on the power of thousands of machines with the data transferred to researchers via IBM cloud.

ebook

Coronavirus and its impact on the enterprise

This TechRepublic Premium ebook compiles the latest on cancelled conferences, cybersecurity attacks, remote work tips, and the impact this pandemic is having on the tech industry.

Read More

Volunteers can use a PC or Mac with an internet connection to download an application that works when the device is idle or in light use, without slowing down the machine.

The software will conduct small virtual experiments to identify chemical compounds, including those in existing medicines, which could potentially be used as treatments for coronavirus. Any compounds that show promise for treating COVID-19 will undergo further testing and analysis.

SEE: Sensor'd enterprise: IoT, ML, and big data (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)  

It's hoped that by using using a network of computers from volunteers, it'll help scientists accelerate drug discovery or drug re-purposing process.

"Tapping the unused processing power on thousands of idle computing devices provides us with an incredible amount of computing power to virtually screen millions of chemical compounds," said Stefano Forli, assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology at Scripps Research, and director of the project

"Our joint effort with volunteers all over the world promises to accelerate our search for new, potential drug candidates that address present and future emerging biological threats, whether it is COVID-19 or an entirely different pathogen," he added.

People who want to take part in the project don't need any special expertise to participate and personal information isn't shared. Like other World Community Grid projects, all of the data generated will be made publicly available.

SEE: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

While the research will initially focus on COVID-19, Scripps Research also plans to develop tools and methods to allow future drug-discovery projects to ramp up quickly, such as during potential future pandemics.

Several technology companies have offered their resources to help fight the coronavirus crisis; last week it was reported that Amazon, Microsoft and Palantir are among those helping the UK's National Health Service analyse data to predict hotspots and decide how to best use resources.