Anyone in the world with a computer and an internet connection can help scientists seeking chemical compounds that might be effective against the current pandemic through a project called OpenPandemics – COVID-19.
Volunteers can help by downloading an app that identifies when their devices are otherwise idle or in light use. Utilizing the unused processing power of these devices, the app will allow scientists to perform small, virtual experiments to identify chemical compounds, including those in existing medicines, that could potentially be used as treatment candidates for Covid-19.
IBM’s World Community Grid crowdsourcing power will enable the project to perform hundreds of millions of calculations needed for simulations. This could potentially help scientists accelerate the drug discovery or drug repurposing process, traditionally performed more slowly in a traditional, “wet” laboratory.
Operating on the IBM cloud, the process is automatic and volunteers need not have any special technical expertise to participate. Personal information is never shared, and the software cannot access personal or business files.
Giving volunteers a sense of empowerment
To date, more than 770,000 people and 450 organizations have contributed nearly two million years of computing power to support 30 research projects, including studies on cancer, Ebola, Zika, malaria, and AIDS, as well as projects for developing better water filtration systems and solar energy collection.
Data from World Community Grid projects are always shared with the world, and so far more than 50 peer-reviewed scientific articles have been published. The computing power is provided free of charge on the basis of crowdsourcing, allowing researchers to scale up research, pursue new research approaches, and accelerate processes.
“IBM’s World Community Grid is a resource that not only empowers scientists to accelerate vital work on a large scale, but also gives volunteers a sense of empowerment, joining with others all over the globe to make a difference,” said Guillermo Miranda, VP and head of corporate social responsibility at IBM. “During a time of social distancing and isolation, this sense of purpose and interconnectedness is as important as ever.”