OpenPandemics - COVID-19

What are the goals of OpenPandemics - COVID-19?

The primary goal of the project is to search for potential treatments for COVID-19, so studying proteins from SARS-CoV2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is the highest priority.

Additionally, the project's scientists want to fight not only the current emergency, but also prepare for the ones that will likely follow. Future pandemics could stem from a progressive accumulation of mutations, which can eventually lead to a new virus variant. This is what happened when the virus SARS-CoV1 mutated to become SARS-CoV2. So the research team is including proteins from the SARS-CoV1 and other viruses to be studied as part of OpenPandemics - COVID-19, which will help them assess how difficult would it be to find or design molecules capable of overcoming the inevitable mutations.

The secondary goal is to create a fast-response, open source toolkit that will help all scientists quickly search for treatments for future pandemics.

In keeping with World Community Grid's open data policy, all data, tools, and processes that are developed through OpenPandemics will be made freely available to the scientific community.

How are the goals of the project being met?

The research team is leveraging computational research techniques (where scientists run many computer-based, simulated experiments) to help accelerate the search for treatments for COVID-19 and other pandemics. These powerful techniques are effective because computational research can correlate different sources of information as soon as they are available (such as virus mutations and other types of data). This helps scientists build models that constantly evolve to provide insight on how to fight the infection being studied. 

World Community Grid's massive computing power allows scientists to leverage such research techniques at scale. For this project, this computing power is enabling the research team to rapidly study millions of chemical compounds that could be potential treatments for COVID-19, identify the most promising compounds, and flag them for testing in real-life laboratories.

Who are the scientists involved in OpenPandemics - COVID-19?

The Forli Lab at Scripps Research is spearheading the study. They will be working with additional collaborators within Scripps Research, as well as at other institutions, on various aspects of the project including to conduct lab testing based on the results of the virtual experiments conducted on World Community Grid. You can learn more about the scientists behind the project on the Research Participants page.

How might the data generated by OpenPandemics - COVID-19 be valuable to scientists?

The data generated during the project could represent ideal starting points for the design of new classes of drugs to target COVID-19 and other coronaviruses. Additionally, OpenPandemics - COVID-19 could build a model for the fast deployment of computational resources to help identify potential treatments during fast-spreading pandemics.

And because all data, tools, and processes that are developed through OpenPandemics - COVID-19 will be shared freely, the project can benefit the scientific community at large.

How is World Community Grid helping with this effort?

The computing power donated by World Community Grid volunteers enables researchers to explore a much larger chemical space by screening hundreds of millions of molecules in the quest for promising drug candidates against COVID-19. The scale of the volunteers' donated computing power also means that a research effort of this scale can be done in a matter of months instead of years.

Right now, this project is looking for potential treatments for COVID-19. Will there be future phases of the project?

There's a good possibility that OpenPandemics may have additional phases. From what scientists have learned from past outbreaks, they expect pandemics caused by newly emerging pathogens to become more and more common. That's why the project is being designed to be rapidly deployed to fight future diseases–ideally before they reach a critical stage.

In order to help address future pandemics, researchers need access to swift and effective tools which can be deployed very early, as soon as a threatening disease is identified. Using the knowledge and data from looking for potential COVID-19 treatments, the researchers plan to create a software infrastructure to streamline the computational research process of finding potential treatments for other diseases. And, in keeping with World Community Grid's open data policy, they'll make their findings and these tools freely available to the scientific community.

How can I help?

Anyone with a computer can help the search for potential COVID-19 treatments by joining World Community Grid.

It's easy: you create a World Community Grid account, select to support OpenPandemics - COVID-19, and then install our free and safe software on your computer. Then, whenever your computer has any unused computing power, it runs a simulation on behalf of the OpenPandemics research team to evaluate the effectiveness of chemical compounds as potential COVID-19 treatment options.

The more people that participate, the quicker the researchers can get their work done!

What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) a virus that belongs to the coronavirus family, which includes also SARS-CoV (responsible of the SARS outbreak of 2003) and the MERS-CoV (responsible of the MERS outbreak of 2013). These viruses share the common trait of infecting the human respiratory system and can cause serious illness or even death. First identified as a pneumonia of unknown origin at the end of 2019, the disease was named COVID-19 in February 2020. COVID-19 proved to be highly infectious and quickly spread to every continent.

Why is COVID-19 considered to be so dangerous?

COVID-19 is considered to be highly infectious disease, since the virus is usually spread through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. The World Health Organization has stated that COVID-19 may be able to spread in all types of weather and may not necessarily require direct contact with an infected person. The virus can affect people of all ages, although the elderly, immunocompromised, and anyone with existing health problems are believed to be more susceptible.

As of the launch of this project, there is no effective treatment, cure, or vaccine for COVID-19.

There are other volunteer computing projects related to COVID-19? Does the world really need more than one?

Yes! There other volunteer computing projects right now that are part of the fight against COVID-19, and they are all doing important work. Understanding the molecular structure of the virus that causes COVID-19, searching for treatments, and ultimately finding a vaccine, requires an "all hands on deck" approach from scientists, government agencies, businesses, and the general public.

How exactly does this project use computing power to look for potential COVID-19 treatments?

The Forli Lab is using a process known as molecular docking, which is the study of how two or more molecules fit together, such as a protein in a human cell or in a virus, and a chemical compound. In OpenPandemics - COVID-19, the researchers are leveraging this technique at scale, thanks to World Community Grid's massive computational power, by virtually screening millions of chemical compounds to see which might be capable of binding to proteins of the SARS-Cov2, as well as other coronaviruses proteins. This helps them identify which compounds could be effective against the virus and therefore may be able to contrast the COVID-19 progression. Promising compounds will then proceed through the drug discovery process, which includes laboratory testing and chemical optimizations.

The researchers plan to screen compounds from various sources including existing commercially available and clinically tested compounds, focused libraries generated in silico, as well as in-house libraries of compounds that are available at Scripps Research.

Where can I learn more about COVID-19, SARS-CoV2, and other coronaviruses?

The Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization have many resources that are continually updated with the newest information about COVID-19.

Members of the Center for Computational Structural Biology at Scripps Research are also producing materials about SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and its molecules, including accurate 3D models, illustrations and educational materials, including CellPAINT, a program that allows you to draw your own pictures of the virus.

What are the system requirements for devices to participate in OpenPandemics – COVID-19?

Any laptop or desktop can be used. OpenPandemics – COVID-19 runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems. Learn more about the system requirements at

What does the screen saver look like when OpenPandemics – COVID-19 is running?

Here is a video of the OpenPandemics – COVID-19 screen saver:



What does the screen saver show?

The right portion of the screen saver shows both the target protein and drug candidate molecule being evaluated, depicted as a collection of small spheres that represent the atoms of each molecule. These are the specific molecules that your device is currently working on.

What does the progress bar in the screen saver represent?

The progress bar, towards the bottom of the screen saver, represents approximately how much of the current research task your device has processed. When it reaches 100%, the computation is complete and the results will then be sent back to World Community Grid, where they will be packaged and delivered to the OpenPandemics researchers.

Where may I download a picture of the OpenPandemics – COVID-19 graphic?

Click here to view and download an image of the OpenPandemics – COVID-19 screensaver.