Library technology being utilized in the fight against virus
by Lorne Chase
While in lockdown Newmarket Public Library is helping fight COVID-19 by lending its computers and tech equipment to organizations that are either creating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for hospital workers or conducting research into the virus.
Last month the library's 3D printers were loaned out to local makerspace NewMakeIt to help in the production of face shields for medical staff. And now the library is helping an organization focused on disease research by providing the use of its computers.
Folding@home is a computing project run by a consortium of university and medical research facilities and based in the U.S. It utilizes distributed computers to run simulations on protein dynamics to aid in developing therapeutic drugs for diseases like Alzheimer's and Huntington's. It is now focusing its efforts on understanding the protein makeup of COVID-19.
Proteins are the basic building blocks of the human body, required for cell energy, repair and maintenance, and creating antibodies for the immune system. They consist of amino acids (comprised of atoms), which form chains that 'fold' into complex three-dimensional structures, hence the name of the consortium Folding@home.
If these protein chains 'misfold' they can cause a wide range of health disorders.
Viruses also contain proteins, which they use to reproduce themselves and suppress human immune systems. Researchers are studying these viral proteins and conducting biochemical simulations on computers to better understand how they function and replicate.
"The simulations the project conducts require enormous processing power, "says library CEO Todd Kyle. "As a result of the lockdown the library's computers are now idle so we can make them available by donating power for such an important undertaking."
Distributed computing requires the combined computing power of thousands of computers to help render simulations faster, while improving efficiency and performance. The project software is downloaded onto a computer and runs in the background as a person goes about their everyday work.
Folding@home operates on an open-source model and shares its analysis and knowledge with other organizations working in the field of protein research, and all of its data is made available to the public.
Find out more about Folding@home and the consortium's efforts being made to analyze COVID-19.
Lorne Chase is the Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Newmarket Public Library. Visit the library's website at newmarketpl.ca