A team of researchers from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in the United States, belonging to the American Department of Energy, is using Summit, the most powerful supercomputer in the world, to help in the fight against COVID-19 . This supercomputer, developed by IBM for this department, is being used to identify and study drug compounds that may be used to find a cure for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, responsible for COVID-19.
Viruses infect cells by binding to them and injecting their genetic material into the host cell. To understand how viruses work, researchers grow the microorganism and study how it reacts when different drug compounds are applied to it, but this can be a very time-consuming process if computers that can perform digital simulations are not used to narrow the range of potential variables. And even with them, there are challenges. Computer simulations can examine how different variables react to different viruses. The problem is that each of these individual variables can be made up of millions or even billions of unique pieces of data, so their analysis is very difficult and time consuming using basic hardware.
However, thanks to the power of the Summit supercomputer, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have been able to simulate 8,000 compounds in a matter of days. If this procedure had been developed with a conventional computer, the process would have taken months. Using Summit, researchers have identified 77 small molecules of drug compounds that have been shown to have the potential to damage COVID-19’s ability to attack and infect host cells.
With the power of the Summit supercomputer, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory get results in a day instead of months
“Summit was needed to quickly get the simulation results we wanted. It took us a day or two in what would have taken months with a normal computer, “said Jeremy Smith, director of the University of Tennessee / ORNL Center for Molecular Biophysics and principal investigator of the study. “Our results do not mean that we have found a cure or treatment for COVID-19. However, we are very hopeful that our computational findings will inform studies and provide a framework that experimenters will use to further investigate these compounds. Only then will we know if any of them exhibit the necessary characteristics to mitigate this virus. “
The most powerful supercomputer in the world
Researchers have been able to take advantage of the enormous data processing capacityfrom Summit, the world’s most powerful and intelligent supercomputer, with a peak performance of 200 petaflops, similar to a power greater than that of a million high-end laptops. This allows you to examine thousands upon thousands of variables, and create models and simulations to help find answers to the world’s most complex problems. Since it debuted in 2018 as the world’s most powerful supercomputer, Summit has been part of groundbreaking research focused on, for example, understanding the origins of the universe, helping to understand America’s opioid crisis, or showing how humans could land. In mars. Summit is powered by 9,216 IBM Power9 CPUs and more than 27,000 NVIDIA V100 Tensor Core GPUs, and occupies a space similar to that of two tennis courts.
This research is just one example of the different supercomputing initiatives that are currently being developed to fight COVID-19, both in the private and public spheres. Another example of this is Sierra, the second most powerful supercomputer in the world, also developed by IBM, and capable of doing more calculations in a second than a human could do in 31,000 million years. The Lawrence Livermore Lab in the United States is using Sierra to try to figure out which antibodies might attack and neutralize the virus.
Free IBM Clinical Development
On the other hand, IBM Watson Health has made IBM Clinical Development (ICD) technology available to national health entities, free of charge. This system can help to carry out in an accelerated way the clinical trials necessary for the accelerated development of drugs that fight COVID-19. The system centralizes and organizes clinical trial data and provides 24/7 access to it via a single URL from any web-enabled device.
IBM software was first offered to Chinese health officials, and with the spread of the disease, IBM now offers it free of charge to a wider network of national health entities. This product has been on the market for several years and is being used by clinical research centers and organizations participating in clinical trials sponsored by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to carry out their work in monitoring clinical trials.