Vaccine researchers gain access to ‘unprecedented supercomputing power’

IBM has announced the formation of the Covid-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, in collaboration with the US Department of Energy and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The new syndicate will aggregate the computing power of some of the world’s most advanced supercomputers and allocate resources to teams developing treatments and vaccines for the novel coronavirus.

The project assembles 16 supercomputing systems – accounting for 330 petaflops of processing power, 775,000 CPU cores and 34,000 GPUs – which will be used to drastically reduce the time it takes to model chemical compounds.

Other participating members include NASA, MIT, Amazon, Google and a host of eminent US laboratories and research foundations.

Coronavirus research

IBM hopes using supercomputers to augment research processes will dramatically accelerate scientific discoveries necessary to quell the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the technology behemoth, the compute power managed by the consortium will be used to develop predictive models to map disease progression and prototype potential therapies and vaccines.

“These high-performance computing systems allow researchers to run very large numbers of calculations in epidemiology, bioinformatics and molecular modeling. These experiments would take years to complete if worked by hand, or months if handled on slower traditional computing platforms,” said Dario Gill, Director of IBM Research.

The announcement of the new consortium builds on work already underway at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), where IBM Summit – recognised as the world’s mightiest supercomputer – is working to identify compounds that could be used in the fight against coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services has launched its own initiative to drive the research, diagnostics and testing of Covid-19. The firm has committed $20 million, open to accredited research institutions and private entities using AWS to support research efforts.

And, outside the US, Chinese tech firm Huawei has announced the development of an AI-assisted diagnosis service, which can automatically assess lung structure and function, alleviating the shortage of doctors qualified to perform such analyses.

Covid-19 is believed to have originated in the Chinese province of Wuhan. To date, more than 340,000 cases have been recorded and roughly 15,000 have died.

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