Bringing 330 petaflops of supercomputing to fight the outbreak

Scientists, medical researchers and government agencies are given extraordinary power to respond to and mitigate the global emergency

IBM, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are teaming with the White House, the US Department of Energy, and other federal agencies to bring a massive amount of supercomputing power and public cloud resources to scientists, engineers and researchers who are working to tackle the novel coronavirus global pandemic. And the new consortium is already hard at work harnessing the power of the nation’s high-performance computers to better understand the virus, find treatments that can be used and develop potential vaccines and cures.

As announced during the weekend. The COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium is a public-private effort being spearheaded by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Energy and numerous industry partners such as IBM, said Paul Dabbar, undersecretary for science at the Energy Department. It is aimed at bringing together industry, academic institutions and federal laboratories to try to identify or create candidate compounds that might prevent or treat a coronavirus infection. To achieve this, it will provide Covid-19 researchers from all over the country and all over the world with access to the world's most powerful high-performance supercomputer resources that can significantly advance the pace of scientific discovery in the fight to stop the virus.  This means that the companies and organisations are making available more than 330 petaflops of performance over 16 systems that hold an aggregate of more than 775,000 CPU cores and 34,000 GPUs

This computing power offered through the consortium can process massive amounts of calculations related to bioinformatics, epidemiology, molecular modeling and health-care system responses. That will help scientists develop answers to complex scientific questions about Covid-19 in hours or days rather than weeks or months.

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee (one member of the consortium), for instance, is using its supercomputers to look for compounds already on the market that might foil the virus. Oak Ridge's approach involves what's called computational structure-based drug discovery. Basically, that means they use a computer to calculate how drugs might work against germs like viruses.

"We could get these calculations done in one day on the supercomputer, whereas a normal computer, it would take a month," says Jeremy Smith, director of the Center for Molecular biophysics at Oak Ridge.

And already the work the lab is doing is making a difference. For example, at Oak Ridge is located the No. 1 supercomputer in the world Summit, which helped researchers examined 8,000 compounds using computing power that could be potentially useful for COVID-19 therapies and narrowed them down to 77 small molecule drug compounds. Meanwhile, at Argonne National Lab, researchers have examined 250 million known small molecules that may affect the virus.

Industry partners include IBM, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard Enterprises. Academic partners include MIT and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Energy Department labs participating include Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. Other federal agencies participating include the National Science Foundation and NASA.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

Similar articles