Influenza HA binder design competition
We are announcing a special competition for the newest binder design puzzle! We are challenging players to design as many binders as possible for influenza hemagglutinin (HA).
Unlike puzzle rankings, your competition ranking will NOT be determined by your best score in the puzzle. Instead, the winner of the competition will be the soloist player that submits the greatest number of valid solutions before the puzzle closes March 26 at 23:00 GMT.
There are two rules for a valid submission:
1. The solution must have a score greater than 10,000.
2. You must reset the puzzle for each submission.
Rule #2 means that each submission must be restarted from scratch, and no work may be shared between submissions. Foldit keeps track of each solution's history, and we will reject multiple submissions that come from a common "intermediate" solution. Loading a saved solution or clicking on the Undo Graph will NOT reset the solution history. You must use the Reset Puzzle button to begin each new submission from scratch.
To participate in the competition, simply submit each 10,000 point solution using the Upload for Scientist button in the Save Menu, and include the word “submission” somewhere in the upload title. For logistical reasons, we will only consider soloist solutions in the special competition. Evolved solutions from two or more players will not count as valid submissions.
The competition rankings and submissions will be showcased in a special blog post after the competition ends. The winner will be highlighted in the April 2021 Lab Report, where bkoep will take a close look at the designs from the winning player.
Note that Puzzle 1968: Influenza HA Binder Design Competition will also function like a regular puzzle. If you do not want to participate in the special competition, the puzzle will still reward points as usual, based on your best score when the puzzle closes.
The backstory: Protein design throughput
This competition will serve as a kind of experiment for Foldit, as we think about ways to make Foldit more effective for scientific research.
Currently, one of the big problems facing protein design in Foldit is throughput. We simply aren't generating enough designs to test in the lab. For a typical binder design experiment, we can expect a success rate of about 0.1% for binders that satisfy all of our binder metrics. That means we need to test thousands of designs in order to find a hit, and a typical Foldit puzzle only produces a couple hundred designs.
At the same time, we suspect that a lot of late-game optimization in Foldit design puzzles is wasted effort, and this work may not actually improve the final protein design. We’ve noticed that, after initial construction and refinement of a protein design, many players resort to heavy-duty scripts that run for days on end, making tiny changes to squeeze out the last few points and get to the top of the puzzle leaderboards. If that late-game optimization does not lead to higher-quality designs, then we would like to redirect that effort towards new designs.
In the past, we've experimented with the Move Limit Objective as a possible approach to this problem. The Move Limit prevents players from spending time running heavy-duty optimization scripts, because these scripts will quickly burn through the allotted moves. We had hoped this would refocus player efforts toward multiple puzzle attempts.
While this seems to be moderately effective, the Move Limit has some problems. There's no strong incentive to actually restart a puzzle once you hit the Move Limit. It's also difficult to calibrate the actual number of moves that should be allotted, since different players with different play styles will naturally require different numbers of moves to make a good protein design.
A different approach
A more radical, but more direct, approach is to revise the overall reward system in Foldit (at least for protein design problems) to encourage multiple solutions for each puzzle. In this kind of system, the goal of competitive players (make many good designs) would be better aligned with the goal of Foldit scientists (test many good designs). So, instead of awarding points based only on your best score, perhaps we should award points for multiple high-scoring solutions.
This competition will serve as a kind of pilot experiment for such a reward system, where rankings reflect the number of solutions contributed to each research problem. We’ll be looking to see how this system impacts puzzle results, and whether it has any unintended effects on gameplay. (Of course, we also hope this competition will produce lots of binder designs for influenza HA!)
The competition will remain open for two weeks. Players will have until March 26 to create as many 10,000 point solutions as possible. Play Puzzle 1968: Influenza HA Binder Design Competition now!
Edit: See the followup blog post for the final results of this competition!( Posted by bkoep 62 503 | Fri, 03/12/2021 - 23:48 | 5 comments )