You can now play a video game to help scientists develop coronavirus medication

(Image credit: University of Washington)

The University of Washington has developed a free video game designed to enlist players in the global scientific race for a coronavirus antiviral drug.

Foldit, which can be downloaded from the FreeThink website here, is protein folding game designed by the University of Washington's Institute for Protein Design (IPD), and "tasks players with solving puzzles by creating a protein structure that can interact with another protein in a given way."

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The idea, says the IPD, is to find the right protein combination that can effectively protect cells from coronavirus' own attacking proteins, which scientists can then use to develop antiviral medicines that can slow or disrupt the rate of infection. 

A modest protein of 100 amino acids, however, contains "1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,0000 possible combinations", so it's no wonder that IPD is trying to recruit as many players as possible to join the fight. 

In effect, the more people download the software and get to work on testing potential protein combinations against COVID-19, the more likely potential cures and solutions can be discovered. 

IPD stresses that the medical community is "a far way from solving such a puzzle to finding the drug … to cure the disease”, but - given that so many of us are now stuck at home - playing Foldit is potentially one of the best ways we can help right now. That, and donating our gaming rig's GPU to scientific research on coronavirus

For more, check out more upcoming PS4 games for 2020 and beyond, or watch our latest episode of Dialogue Options below. 

Alex Avard

I'm GamesRadar's Features Writer, which makes me responsible for gracing the internet with as many of my words as possible, including reviews, previews, interviews, and more. Lucky internet!