People can donate their spare computing power to help scientists better understand the link between bacteria and autoimmune diseases.

The Microbiome Immunity Project is part of IBM‘s ‘philanthropic initiative’- the World Community Grid – a platform that gives scientists access to free crowdsourced supercomputing power. Microbiome are the ‘bacteria that live in and on the human body’ and scientists want to learn more about their connection to autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease and Type 1 diabetes. The ultimate goal is to develop ways to treat and prevent these diseases.

A study of the entire human microbiome would be impossible without the supercomputer.

“Had World Community Grid not existed, we wouldn’t have even contemplated this project. By harnessing the efforts of volunteers, we can do something that exceeds the scale of what we have access to by a factor of thousands. For the first time, we’re bringing a comprehensive structural biology picture to the whole microbiome, rather than solving structures one at a time in a piecemeal fashion,” Dr Rob Knight, Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Computer Science & Engineering and Director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego, said.

All data produced will be made available to other scientists to speed up research in this area.

The IBM supported Microbiome Immunity Project is being spearheaded by scientists from the Broad Institute of MIT and HarvardMassachusetts General HospitalUniversity of California San Diego, and the Simons Foundation’s Flatiron Institute.

And anyone can get involved.