Rosetta@home is a new distributed computing project sponsored by the University of Washington, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, NIH and the National Science Foundation:
In the case of Rosetta@home, people can put their computers to work on the science of proteins, which are the building blocks of all life. Understanding how proteins form their complex, three-dimensional structures can help us learn how life begins, and it can also have huge implications for disease research.
“Rosetta@home seeks to solve one of the longest standing problems in molecular biology, with important implications for human health and the treatment of disease,” said Baker. [Dr. David Baker, a University of Washington and Howard Hughes Medical Institute biochemist -ed.] “I think it is wonderful that through the contributions of volunteers around the world, we can make real progress on this extremely challenging problem.”
Being able to predict the complex structure of a protein in the malaria parasite, for instance, could give scientists a cellular roadmap for attacking and eliminating that parasite, preventing the spread of the disease. Or being able to design new proteins could help researchers design a vaccine for HIV, a major current effort in Baker’s group.
These are the kinds of advances that may be possible in the future as scientists like Baker perfect their computer models of protein structure. But those advances will be difficult without thousands and thousands of people donating something that doesn’t cost them a thing: their computer’s leftover power.