Hugh Pickens writes: "For years, biochemists have reengineered naturally occurring proteins by growing them in viruses and single-celled organisms in a process called directed evolution. Now David Baker, a leading protein scientist at the University of Washington, has demonstrated the first algorithm for building novel, functioning enzymes from scratch and wants to enlists gamers to improve three-dimensional protein structures, using graphical representations of real protein chemistry. Baker's game, called Foldit which is avaiable for download, uses humans, who are better at seeing the big picture than computers are, to improve computer-designed proteins. The first several levels of Foldit are designed to teach players what good proteins look like and how to manipulate them using the tools of the game. After improving the designs of a few test proteins, players can advance into competitive play, working in teams or alone. By making the game available to anyone over the Web, the researchers expect to find people they call protein savants — people who are very good at solving protein structures and who will spend several hours a week playing the game."
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