Folding@Home + SONM: Curing Disease with Cryptocurrency

Brad Boldt
Dec 6, 2018 · 6 min read

UPDATE: A few hours after this article was initially posted, the SONM team added Folding@Home to the list of pre-approved Docker containers. This article has been revised to reflect that KYC3 is no longer required for Folding@Home. Simplifying the process a great deal, steps 5 and 6 have been deleted.

“Crypto for a cure” — how to convert bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies to SONM and fund computational power for medical research using the SONM network and Folding@home project (

This holiday season why not take some of that crypto burning a hole in your Ledger and put it to use folding proteins for medical research!

Bull markets are fun, Bear markets are for building. One of the greatest things to come out of 2018 in the crypto-sphere are real life products and use cases. One of them, SONM (Supercomputer Organized by Network Mining, launched their main network in June of this year. Since then users around the world have been renting computational power with one another across the network.

Why is that important?

Well besides being one of the first steps towards what will eventually become a crypto based decentralized internet, it enables the monetization of computational sharing today. If that flew over your head, think AirBnB but instead of a condo for a weekend getaway, you can rent someone’s computer power or rent out your own computer for additional income.

How can that be used to cure diseases?

To start let’s get some background: The Folding@Home ( project is a distributed computing project focused on shared computational power for disease research. Research in the medical community requires a great deal of computing power and Folding@Home enables computers around the world to help out the cause. Some more information(from Wikipedia) on the folding at home project for those unfamiliar:

Folding@home (FAH or F@h) is a distributed computing project for disease research that simulates protein folding, computational drug design, and other types of molecular dynamics. The project uses the idle processing resources of thousands of personal computers owned by volunteers who have installed the software on their systems. Its main purpose is to determine the mechanisms of protein folding, which is the process by which proteins reach their final three-dimensional structure, and to examine the causes of protein misfolding. This is of significant academic interest with major implications for medical research into Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and many forms of cancer, among other diseases. To a lesser extent, Folding@home also tries to predict a protein’s final structure and determine how other molecules may interact with it, which has applications in drug design. Folding@home is developed and operated by the Pande Laboratory at Stanford University, under the direction of Prof. Vijay Pande, and is shared by various scientific institutions and research laboratories across the world.[1]

Folding@home is one of the world’s fastest computing systems clocking in at around 135 petaFLOPS[5] as of January 2018. This allows researchers to run computationally costly atomic-level simulations of protein folding thousands of times longer than formerly achieved. Since its launch on October 1, 2000, the Pande Lab has produced 139 scientific research papers as a direct result of Folding@home.[6]Results from the project’s simulations agree well with experiments.

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Screenshot of Folding@Home web application

Today, anyone can contribute computational power by running the Windows, Mac, Linux or web application available at There is also a Docker container available enabling it to run on shared computational networks such as SONM. This article focuses on the latter of those applications.

With the background information out of the way, lets take a look at what it requires to get from cryptocurrency to medical research step by step.

This process is fairly simple if you are familiar with Linux . If you would like to do this but lack the technical experience, stop by the SONM telegram chats the community is eager to help!

Step 1. Acquire Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency can be purchased in a variety of methods. You can purchase Bitcoin , Ethereum and a handful of other currencies on Coinbase or other exchanges and convert it to SONM. You can also buy SONM directly from FIAT using a service like changelly as described on . This guide will show you how to buy any cryptocurrency and convert to SONM.

Step 2. Setup SONM GUI Wallet

There are many guides available for this, so they wont be repeated in this article. For a quick start see the guide below or the official SONM documentation.

Step 3. Setup SONM software as a consumer

SONM software is Linux only for the time being, so a linux machine, virtual box or dual boot is needed to run. SONM team provides a great guide on getting started as a consumer here:

Step 4. Setup details on Folding @ Home

This step is optional, as you can run Folding@Home as anonymous. If you would like to track progress, you will need to setup a team and username on The teams for this project allow for tracking of overall progress and create a fun competitive nature to the program. In testing to put together this guide, I created a team with number 234756 feel free to join or create a new team. Further details are available on Folding at Home webpage.

Step 5. Find a computational power deal on the SONM GUI

Now you are ready to rent computing power, this involves opening the SONM GUI and selecting a deal. The SONM documentation provides all of the details on this here:

Step 6. Clone and build the sonm/foldingathome Docker Container

In order to run the SONM folding at home container, it is needed to clone and build it. This can be done using the following commands:

Docker will display successfully built and successfully tagged when this is completed .

Step 7. Run Folding@Home docker container as SONM task

For some background on tasks using SONM see this documentation:

To run the Folding@Home docker container on SONM, first create a task.yaml file , example (change username and/or team number as needed):

Finally, run the task using the task ID of the deal from SONM GUI (from step 5)

When up and running you can view your node, assign name, team, cause and passcode on the web admin page:

Just like that you can convert cryptocurrency to medical research! This process takes a few steps, but is possible for anyone willing to learn. If you get stuck, ask the community! This is also a proof of concept to spur imagination of what is possible. The idea that money can be directly converted to medical research with few intermediaries is a new level of efficiency in charity. To achieve something like this in the past, one would need to have FIAT, donate it through a payment provider to a charity, the charity would then apply the FIAT to a group researching who would in turn need to buy computers to run simulations. As complex as this guide may seem it is far more efficient than almost any alternative out there.

Dreaming about future applications

Many of the steps that complicate the process can be made easier with a few simple add ons or advancements. Some already have with the quick whitelisting of the Folding@Home task by the SONM team! Perhaps an aggregator or DAO to receive donations in cryptocurrency and automatically purchase tasks, there could even be a pooling of resources as seen in cryptocurrency mining. Groups of suppliers can offer discounted pricing for computational resources if used for medical research. The one takeaway from this article:

The proof of concept exists today to convert money directly to medical research. That, for me is something exciting!

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