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Foldit is a revolutionary new computer game enabling you to contribute to important scientific research. This page describes the science behind Foldit and how your playing can help.
David Baker, a protein research scientist at the University of Washington, founded the Foldit project. Seth Cooper was the lead game designer.
- In 2011, players of Foldit helped to decipher the crystal structure of the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV) retroviral protease, an AIDS-causing monkey virus. While the puzzle was available to play for a period of three weeks, players produced an accurate 3D model of the enzyme in just ten days. The problem of how to configure the structure of the enzyme had stumped scientists for 15 years.
- On January, 2012, Scientific American reported that the Foldit gamers achieved the first crowdsourced redesign of a protein. The protein is an enzyme which catalyses theDiels-Alder reactions widely used in synthetic chemistry. A team including David Baker in the Center for Game Science at University of Washington in Seattle computationally designed this enzyme from scratch but found the potency needing improvement. The Foldit players reengineered the enzyme by adding 13 amino acids and increased its activity by more than 18 times.
The game’s toolbox is primarily for the design of protein molecules. The game creator announced the plan to add the chemical building blocks with organic subcomponents to enable the Foldit players to design small molecules by 2013.