Coronavirus or COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe at an alarming rate. The disease classified as pandemic has infected over 500 thousand people while killing thousands of people in multiple countries. Beyond this, there is no cure for the disease beyond precautions to avoid infection. At the same time, multiple governments and private medical research labs are currently working on finding a cure for COVID-19. Trying to find the cure includes several steps including multiple human trials. As a first step, scientists and researchers have to isolate and cultivate the virus. This can be challenging in itself depending on the type of virus. Also Read - Coronavirus: Here are all tech brands offering extended warranty due to the lockdown
Scientists are currently testing mRNA vaccines to fight coronavirus. These vaccines include a sequence of the spike proteins on COVID-19. This protein helps the virus latch on and then enter human cells. Researchers in the United States are hoping that the body can recognize this virus and then create anti-bodies. This approach focuses on a weaker strand of COVID-19 to fight the virus. However, we still need to identify other proteins involved in this disease. Beyond this, there are some vaccines currently under development. Taking a look at the timeline, it will take more than a year to come up with a proper vaccine. This timeline will be true only if there are no potential complications such as a possible mutation. There are some reports indicating a vaccine under a year but that will be something similar to a miracle or a world record. Also Read - Realme extends warranty and replacement period during coronavirus lockdown in India
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Looking from the outside, more than a year to a vaccine sounds quite difficult if not scary. Difficult because of the effect on society and the economy and scary because of all the vulnerable people around. Looking at data from the World Health Organization (WHO) for COVID-19, it is easy to get overwhelmed. It is also quite easy to feel helpless. However, there is an indirect way that most of us can help fight the coronavirus. Here is how. Also Read - Coronavirus effect: WhatsApp is pulling all the stops to fight fake news in India
Contributing to the fight against coronavirus while sitting at home; details
Yes, you read that right. You can help in the development of a potential vaccine sitting at home. We are not talking about social distancing and staying at home but actual research. This is with the help of a service called “Folding@Home”. For starters, Folding@Home or FAH is a “distributed computing project” aimed at simulating protein dynamics. This includes how the proteins actually “fold” to function and how they move. As part of this project, average internet users can contribute the computing power of their computer (or laptop) to researchers. FAH takes all this power to create a large supercomputer. Users can also set the software in such a way that FAH only works when your machine is idle.
As part of the project, FAH sends complex calculations to your computer, which when completed, is sent back to scientists. The project highlights how it found a way to fight Ebola with the help of FAH simulations. For context, FAH has long been working on Cancer, numerous infectious diseases, and some neurological diseases. These include Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s diseases. FAH started contributing to COVID-19 at the beginning of February. You can check out more details about the project on the dedicated COVID-19 page.
How to get started
Here is how you can setup FAH on your computer or laptop. It is worth noting that this app is available on Windows, macOS, and different Linux distributions. First, you need to download and then install the program. After the installation is done, you need to open the “Folding@Home” program. Once you open it, the app will open a web page on your web browser. Here, you will see a pop-up window with the title “Welcome to Folding@home. Please read this.” You can either choose “Set up an identity” or “Fold as Anonymous” and then click “Start Folding”.
Clicking on “Start Folding” will navigate to another pop-up window with the title “Change Identity”. You can set up the name as you want and then click on the “Get a Passkey” link. This will redirect you to a web page where you need to enter your name and email ID. FAH will then send you a passkey that you can enter in the “Change Identity” pop-up box. You need to click on “Save” to get to business. Now, you can start folding with the large “Start Folding” button towards the bottom.
In addition, you can also set the amount of power that FAH will use. Other options include when you want FAH to start using the power of your computer. Here, you can click on “Only when idle” to ensure that it does not disturb you when you are using your PC or laptop. To contribute to coronavirus research, you need to select “Any disease” option from the “I support research fighting” drop-down. This page will show the progress of research using your CPU and GPU. You can close this browser tab and let the Windows app take over. One can access the app from the Notification icons area on the bottom right corner.