Inside your cells, proteins allow your body to break down food to power your muscles, send signals through your brain that control the body, and transport nutrients through your blood. Every protein consists of a long chain of joined-together amino acids, which are small molecules made up of atoms of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur and hydrogen. Small proteins can consist of 100 amino acids, whereas some human proteins are much larger, with thousands of amino acids.

Each type of protein folds up into a very specific shape, which specifies the protein's function. The Foldit exploration puzzle game attempts to predict the structure of a protein by taking advantage of our puzzle-solving intuitions and having people play competitively to fold the best proteins. Players can also design brand new proteins that could help prevent or treat important diseases.

Another objective of the project is to find new proteins that can help in turning plants into fuel. For this to happen plant material must be broken down (this is currently done by microbial enzymes—proteins—called "cellulases").

This game is a product of a collaboration between University of Washington Departments of Computer Science & Engineering and Biochemistry.