Computers around the world race to research the coronavirus

Polish company Switchit is using its supercomputers to help power COVID-19 research run out of the U.S.

Organizations around the world are banding together to fight a shared enemy, COVID-19. They have been collecting food for donation, developing diagnostic kits, and manufacturing protective equipment for medical professionals.

For Switchit, a Warsaw, Poland–based IT and esports company, helping out meant deploying its fleet of supercomputers to a cause that depends on computing power.

“We decided to allocate these computers to do something good,” says Mateusz Dykier, business development manager at Switchit.

Switchit was looking for an initiative to contribute to when its team heard about Folding@home on the news. Folding@home is a U.S.–based nonprofit organization that calls upon volunteers with computing power to run simulations of protein dynamics on their personal computers in an effort to understand how diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s work.

Today, Folding@home is researching COVID-19 proteins, which is instrumental in the race to develop a vaccine. The data obtained by the project will be made available to laboratories around the world.

Switchit wanted to put its computers to work, but needed a big space to do so. A WeWork team member in Poland saw a social media post by Switchit and suggested WeWork for Good, an initiative that grants office space to eligible organizations playing an active role in supporting the public health response. Through the initiative, Switchit was able to set up its equipment and make use of a powerful and strong internet connection at WeWork Hotel Europejski, in Warsaw.

Switchit also partnered with one of the largest Polish gaming agencies, Fantasyexpo, which engaged with its network of Polish gamers to donate their computer power. In less than a week, the businesses managed to move in all their supercomputers—installed and running simulations.

The machines are now running complex simulations of COVID-19 proteins through Folding@home’s software. The more simulations of COVID-19 proteins that are run, the closer Folding@home may get in identifying the structures that are key to developing a new vaccine.

It’s possible for anyone to download the software that runs the many calculations and simulations needed as part of the research. “Anyone can help, really,” says Justyna Oracz, head of communications at Fantasyexpo. “Stay at home and turn on the computer, and that is really enough to join this project and support the research.”

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