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Can distributed computing cure cancer?

What you can do about it?

Each single mobile device inside our pockets hold more processing power than the entire NASA had at disposal during the Apollo mission, launching the first man onto the surface of the moon.

Despite the fact that they hold tremendous processing capabilities, making them little power houses of their own, the wide possibilities of these devices are explored rarely.

Right now, the world is in terrible need of more processing power. Even though computers have invaded a big chunk of our day to day life, and technology has evolved to squeeze palm sized computers into the pockets of every person, the world needs more.  From research to entertainment, the de-facto driving force of our civilization has narrowed down from a multivariate dependency structure to a single one, revolving around an ultimate power source.

Data processing.

Data creates information. Applied information becomes knowledge. Collective knowledge creates wisdom.  Wisdom is what drives evolution.

One of such fields that is desperately in need of a little “processing” is medical research. The thing is, you can donate the processing power of your smartphone when it is not in use, and it partakes in a global technological marathon to solve the problems of protein folding, equation solving and data classification.

In a nutshell, you could be a part of the cancer research programs lead by prestigious universities across the world, or you could join hands with SETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence), to analyze and interpret mysterious cosmic transmissions.

All you need to have is a smartphone and a working internet connection. Join hands with the world’s finest, to find and cure cancer, Alzheimer’s and other deadly diseases that we still have no clue about.  If you have an Android/Apple cellphone or a tablet, or a PC, you can participate in the world wide medical research. This is not a silly “signup for newsletter” research. You can actually do something to help humanity by lending the processor resources of your device, when they are not in use.

Descending to the particulars, there is a process in Drug design by which Chemists/Pharmas create cures for diseases. It’s basically mathematics, that science, an updated version of our “Odd one out” game. Basically a trial and error testing. If you have time and hunger for some knowledge, please read on.

Drug design, in its most simplified form, utilizes two major factors.

It identifies the disease causing biological target and assumes that modification of these bio-targets may lead to therapeutic effects (Disease healing). It’s a long complicated process, but let me summarize. Once the bio-target has been identified, it is cloned for testing purposes. Then a screening assay is established, wherein large libraries of chemicals are tested for their ability to modify the target.

This is a blind trial and error method. A permutation and combination scenario.

Once a chemical is identified that has the potential to modify the bio-target, it is taken in for further testing. At this point, one more factor needs to be known. The affinity by which this drug binds to its target. If it doesn’t necessarily bind, it is useless.

So, talking English, we have a very big list of potential drug compounds. Then a computer simulated environment is created, where the drug is simulated and predicted for their affinity with the bio-target. This match-making process cannot be humanly done because it would consist of millions of cross-matching tables. Computer environments predict whether a given molecule will bind to a target and if so how strongly.

Computer simulates how millions of proteins fold. This is not a small process and even if we have a super-computer, the resources won’t be enough. So medical research institutes are asking to lend some of your CPU resources and processor-time to partake in their efforts to save humanity from Alzheimer and cancer as well as design sophisticated, effective drugs to cure the same.

This is how you can do it.

Download a BOINC app and choose the projects to which you would want to contribute. You can even lend your computational resources to analyze cosmic transmissions interpreted by SETI’s radio telescopes (Search for extraterrestrial intelligence). It’s awesome.

Only proceed, if you have some free Wi-Fi at your disposal. This app downloads data that need to be processed, and then performs the processing, then uploads the processed data.

Please make some use of your phone other than taking pictures and watching movies. Join hands with world’s biggest computational effort.