Bitcoin Miners Help Find a Cure for COVID-19 by Donating GPU Power

With more than 200,000 confirmed cases and almost 9,000 deaths globally, COVID-19 is by far the biggest health threat the world is facing right now. To help curb the spread of the deadly virus, governments and health organizations have been working round the clock to develop a vaccine.

However, a lack of centralized effort has made progress slow and led to an increase in cases.

To make the process of scientific research necessary to develop a vaccine faster and more efficient, people have begun donating their computing power to medical research teams. While distributed computing—the process of breaking up large chunks of data and crunching the numbers for each small part on a different computer—isn’t anything new, scientists from Stanford University have begun to use the method to help them analyze data regarding COVID-19. 

Folding@home (FAH) is a project run by the university’s Pande Lab that uses the computing power of idle personal computers to perform disease research. At the end of February, the project announced that it will be focusing on fighting the 2019 coronavirus and published a detailed update about their work on Mar. 10. 

Rosetta@home, a similar program built on the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) client, can also run in the background of personal computers and is used to do complex calculations. Both programs take up a small amount of space and the amount of processing power they use can be easily controlled.

Several hacking groups and bitcoin industry advocates have called on crypto miners to donate some of their computing power, and the teams behind Rosetta and FAH have set up their own Twitter account as well.

According to the DistributedComp effort, there are currently more than 2,600 users in its Rosetta team and the number of both compute credit and users continues to grow every day. 

The effort to onboard users to the Rosetta team that is using its computing power to help find a vaccine for COVID-19 has been welcomed on social media. Posts regarding FAH and Rosetta efforts have also facilitated a serious discussion about the connection between distributed computing and the crypto industry.

Many users shared projects that use their own native cryptocurrencies to incentivize donating your computing power. Some highlighted Gridcoin, an altcoin attached to some projects built on BOINC including Rosetta@home, as well as Curecoin, and Foldingcoin. Banano and Obyte have also been mentioned as crypto projects offering financial incentives to participate in the effort.

The latest crash the crypto market has experienced was felt the hardest by altcoins, with some losing more than 70 percent of their value in the past week. The sharp drop in price has effectively made mining unprofitable for thousands of coins, leaving both large and small-scaled mining operations either shutting down or switching to more profitable cryptocurrencies. 

We are yet to see whether the initiative pushes more miners that have closed up shop to turn on their rigs and use them to help scientific research done on Rosetta or FAH. 

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