Though computers had been used before, they lack the spatial recognition and creativity of human beings and the code could not be cracked. In what was essentially a last-ditch effort by Firas Khatib, a biochemist at the University of Washington, they posted the HIV protein on Foldit and let gamers have at it, and oh did they, cracking it in ten days.
"This is one small piece of the puzzle in being able to help with AIDS," Firas Khatib, a biochemist at the University of Washington, told me. Khatib is the lead author of a research paper on the project, published today by Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.
The cool thing is that this can be used in the future. In generic and specific instances, games like Foldit - and other crowdsourcing tools - can help us solve many problems that we could never do before with a few people, even armed with the most powerful computers, could never do before.