Digital Crowdingsourcing: a 10-year AIDS Enzymes Puzzle Solved in 10 Days

No longer quite of-the-moment news (4 days is old in internet time, right?) but in case you missed it:

Gamers Solve Molecular Puzzle That Baffles Scientists (Or if you'd rather read it on Gawker...)

"For more than a decade, an international team of scientists has been trying to figure out the detailed molecular structure of a protein-cutting enzyme from an AIDS-like virus found in rhesus monkeys. Such enzymes, known as retroviral proteases, play a key role in the virus' spread — and if medical researchers can figure out their structure, they could conceivably design drugs to stop the virus in its tracks. The strategy has been compared to designing a key to fit one of Mother Nature's locks....The problem is that enzymes are far tougher to crack than your typical lock. There are millions of ways that the bonds between the atoms in the enzyme's molecules could twist and turn. ... Fortunately, the challenge fit the current capabilities of the Foldit game, so Khatib and his colleagues put the puzzle out there for Foldit's teams to work on. "This was really kind of a last-ditch effort," he recalled. "Can the Foldit players really solve it?"... "They actually did it in less than 10 days," Khatib said.

10 years --> 10 days?? The mind boggles.

As I suggested in my last post, the value of spending some additional startup time in a digital project to include the possibility of crowdsourcing seems totally worth it. Especially if you can use ready-made coding...