GPU computing provider CoreWeave, which is the largest US-based miner on the Ethereum network, has directed 6,000 of its graphics processing units (GPUs) to the Folding@home COVID-19 research project.
The Folding@home project has been operating since October 2000, and operates by pooling idle processing resources of personal computers owned by volunteers who have installed the software on their systems to run statistical simulations analysing complex proteins. On 2 March 2020, Folding@home announced that it had over 470 petaFLOPS of compute power, making it one of the most powerful super computing systems in the world.
Folding@home started an initial focus on using its distributed computing platform to analyse protein folding, but has shifted to more biomedical problems, such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, Ebola and now COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
Unlike the Bitcoin blockchain, which is dominated by application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) to the extend that mining with common GPUs is practically impossible, Ethereum mining continues to be primarily done by GPUs. This presented an opportunity to help for CoreWeave co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Brian Venturo, who said:
This is one of the great things about the Ethereum mining ecosystem, it's basically the largest GPU compute resource on the planet. We were able to redeploy our hardware to help fight a global pandemic in minutes,
On that basis, CoreWeave has contributed over 6,000 of its GPUs to the Folding@home project. It has also agreed to donate 1 hour of GPU time to Folding@home for every $1 spent on its CGI rendering website, concierge render. With the world reeling from the health and economic impacts of COVID-19, and the urgent need for a vaccine and other effective treatments, Venturo commented that:
[Folding@home's] research had profound impacts on the development of front-line HIV defense drugs, and we are hoping our [computing power] will aid in the fight against coronavirus,
That being said, Venturo recognises that the contribution to Folding@home's research is still a long shot, acknowledging that:
After discussing with some industry experts [...] we believe the chance of success in utilizing the work done on Folding@Home to deliver a drug to market to be in the 2-5% range
At this stage, with the COVID-19/Corona Virus crisis continuing to grow, we should be taking every possible edge we have as we race towards understanding this disease.