A new crypto-currency is designed to aid medical research as well as function as a medium of exchange.
CureCoin, which launched in May but is now being promoted through a publicity campaign, works along the lines of similar currencies such as Bitcoin, but its creation process involves medical research.
The units of a crypto-currency aren’t released in one batch in the same way as printing banknotes. Instead they are created by a “mining” process in which computers carry out a processing task: in simple terms trying to solve a puzzle. Over time the owners of the computers, or “miners” will be rewarded with a unit of currency such as a Bitcoin, which can then be used as a medium of exchange, until eventually every possible unit has been assigned and the mining process ends.
Supporters of crypto-currencies argue that the mining process means the currency base expands at a gradual pace and has an ultimate limit, reducing the risk of inflation with “real” currencies, particularly if governments intentionally expand the currency base as part of their monetary policy, for example by printing extra notes.
CureCoin works in a similar way but the mining process isn’t simply carrying out processing that has no other purpose. Instead the “mining” computers are simulating protein folding, the process by which a protein develops from a random structure into a three-dimensional structure designed to carry out a specific function.
The simulation is carried out on behalf of Stanford University, which already has access to more than 174,000 computers from volunteers to run simulations. The long-term goal is to learn more about the protein folding process and the way in which variations can contribute to conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s.
CureCoin appears to be aimed mainly at people already familiar with crypto-currencies and the mining process. Its creators are now targeting people who may consider switching their computer’s mining efforts, or buying and using CureCoin units to help make the currency more attractive and thus attract more miners.