Volunteer or distributed computing allows researchers to harness idle computers to make mammoth calculations for the good of mankind.
The war against malaria is waged on many fronts: mosquito nets, insecticide and treatment are all options. But there are now vaccines on the horizon against this mosquito-borne illness which kills around one million children a year.
Volunteer computing is helping scientists combat malaria
Breakthroughs can throw up difficult questions. For example, researchers at the Swiss Tropical Institute in Basel are asking whether a vaccine is always going to be the best weapon.
To find the answer, they have developed mathematical models of how malaria spreads in different situations and how each remedy combats it.
But rather than using a supercomputer to find the solution, they are outsourcing their calculations across the net.
The distributed computing program they use is called malariacontrol.net, part of Africa@home, which uses a screensaver that taps the processing power of volunteer's personal computers to crunch the numbers.
"Obviously, we are very grateful to all the volunteers who are covering the cost of the computer hardware that we're using," said Professor Tom Smith of the Institute.
"We don't need to invest as much ... in keeping the computers running as we would have to if we had some in-house supercomputing."
The research is paying off. Results show that a vaccine might not always be the best solution in all circumstances.
"Some of our simulations are suggesting that people need to think a bit more out of the box on how to deploy these vaccines, and not to make too many assumptions about how they would be used and who would get the vaccine," said Professor Smith.
This model of computing was pioneered by the Seti@home project which scanned data from radio telescopes for signs of extra-terrestrial life.
ET has kept quiet, but thanks to an open-source platform called BOINC, which helps projects share their research with volunteers, distributed computing is now a big noise, with a stunning variety of projects to choose from.
PCs can fold proteins, do climate modelling, crunch prime numbers or continue the search for elusive extra-terrestrials.
So is volunteer computing poised to elbow aside the supercomputer? At Europe's Centre for Nuclear Research, Cern, where the web was invented, they think not.
The trend of citizen science is being accelerated by the web
Supercomputers are indispensable for real-time analysis of streaming data. But, just like so much on the internet, it could change the extent to which amateurs can get involved in serious science.
"Volunteer computing represents a trend, an age old tradition, which is citizen science," explained François Grey, head of IT communications at Cern.
"That tradition, which has produced some very good science, is being accelerated by the web into something where you can take a scientific problem and give it to people on the web and they can actively help to solve that problem.
"Many more people can take part in many more scientific problems and are amateur scientists contributing in a real way, not just watching science from the outside, but being part of the scientific process themselves."