Stanford University’s distributed computing program Folding@home has become a major force in researching cures to life-threatening diseases such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, and Parkinson’s disease by combining the computing horsepower of millions of processors to simulate protein folding.
The Folding@home project expands list of non-gaming applications for graphics processing units (GPU). By running the Folding@home client on an NVIDIA GeForce GPU, protein-folding simulations can be done 140 times faster than on some of today’s traditional CPUs.
“The impact of GeForce GPUs on protein folding simulations was immediate and dramatic,” said Vijay Pande, associate professor of chemistry, Stanford University and director of the Folding@home project. “Teams that are folding with GeForce GPUs are seeing their production skyrocket. Applying that kind of processing power to Folding@home changes the whole dynamic of the project and could significantly reduce the time it takes to carry out our biomedical research.”
The Folding@home project has amassed a large following of computer enthusiasts who compete in teams to churn through as many data units as possible. It took the NVIDIA internal folding team only two weeks to move ahead of 90% of all teams, using only 10 machines. After expanding the team to include more GPUs, the NVIDIA team has moved inside the top 0.1% of teams in all-time total production in less than a month.
Other folding teams are also seeing their status rise as a result of the NVIDIA Folding@home client.
“We saw the completed work double for our PC Games Hardware Folding team as a result of many team members installing the NVIDIA Folding client,” said Carsten Spille, editor at PC Games Hardware. “We are passing many teams every day and we have finally reached our goal of being one of the top 100 folding teams in the world.”
Proteins assemble themselves through a process biologists call “folding.” The goal of the Folding@home project is to understand protein folding, misfolding, and related diseases. Folding@home simulates protein folding in order to understand how proteins fold so quickly and reliably and to learn about what happens when proteins do not fold correctly. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis, BSE (Mad Cow disease), an inherited form of emphysema, and many cancers are believed to result from protein misfolding.