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Supercomputer consortium to fight coronavirus with processing power

The fight against coronavirus is getting the support of 16 supercomputers thanks to a new consortium of U.S. government agencies and companies. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Energy have announced a partnership to provide supercomputer power for researchers seeking to understand the coronavirus.

The participants in the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium include major tech companies IBM, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft, in addition to two universities: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It also includes five national laboratories, the National Science Foundation, and NASA.

The participants will bring a total of 16 supercomputers to the fight against the virus, providing more than 330 petaflops of processing power from across 775,999 CPU cores and 34,000 GPUs. Researchers can use this massive amount of computer power to quickly run through calculations and models which would take days, months, or even years to perform on less powerful computers.

IBM's Summit Supercomputer

IBM explained how supercomputers can contribute to medical research in a blog post: “As a powerful example of the potential, IBM’s Summit, the most powerful supercomputer on the planet, has already enabled researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee to screen 8,000 compounds to find those that are most likely to bind to the main ‘spike’ protein of the coronavirus, rendering it unable to infect host cells.”

Researchers were able to use Summit’s resources to search for drug compounds which could act as a treatment for the cure or control of the disease. In just two days, Summit was able to identify 77 compounds which could be potentially useful in the management of the disease. With the addition of the other supercomputers, researchers will be able to examine even more data.

It isn’t only huge companies with massive supercomputers which are contributing to coronavirus research efforts, however. The Folding@Home project is inviting members of the public to contribute processing power from their home computers in a distributed computing project. The project now contributes over 470 petaflops of power in total, which is twice as much as even the Summit supercomputer. You can learn about how you can contribute to the project on the Folding@Home website.

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Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
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