A new consortium of American tech companies and organisations has been formed to fight COVID-19. The plan is to use their combined supercomputer capabilities to help scientists do research and model theories around the pandemic.
The initiative was announced on Monday by the White House.
Supercomputers are useful when fighting contagious disease. They allow scientists to run incredible complex models and perform huge calculations that could lead to treatment breakthroughs, far faster than they could using traditional computing resources.
The official press release says “The sophisticated computing systems available through this Consortium can process massive numbers of calculations related to bioinformatics, epidemiology, and molecular modelling, helping scientists develop answers to complex scientific questions about COVID-19 in hours or days versus weeks or months.”
Organisations contributing their supercomputing resources include HP Enterprise, Microsoft, IBM, NASA, Google, various US Department of Energy labs around the US as well as some academic institutions.
The best part is that the consortium is making its supercomputer resources available to scientists fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for free.
The release states that “Researchers are invited to submit COVID-19 related research proposals to the consortium via the online portal which will then be reviewed and matched with computing resources from one of the partner institutions. An expert panel of top scientists and computing researchers will work with proposers to quickly assess the public health benefit of the work and coordinate the allocation of the group’s powerful computing assets.”
Supercomputing in medicine
Using massive computational power in medical research isn’t new, but the fact that so many companies are offering to help out by contributing their resources, and for free, is.
Recently it was reported that a supercomputer found a new substance that could be used to treat “superbugs” that are highly resistant to traditional antibiotics. It’s definitely possible, then, that similar breakthroughs in COVID-19 treatment could result from this consortium’s generosity.
This is a promising start to the US’s anti-corona efforts; we’ll update the story if there are significant developments.