IBM Summit, recognised as the world’s mightiest supercomputer, is being used by researchers to identify chemical compounds that could contribute to the fight against coronavirus.
Researchers were afforded emergency computation time on the machine, which performs analysis at an unrivalled pace. Summit reportedly generated results within 1-2 days, as opposed to the months it would have taken standard computing systems to produce equivalent results.
The supercomputer has helped researchers identify 77 small-molecule compounds worth investigating further as institutions around the world scramble to develop a coronavirus cure.
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Summit boasts a maximum processing power of 200 petaflops, thanks to 4,608 server nodes, each equipped with two IBM POWER9 CPUs and six Nvidia Tensorcore V100 GPUs.
Stored within the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Summit is capable of performing unprecedented computational tasks, opening a world of possibilities in fields such as energy, health and AI.
The computer simulated thousands of compounds in search of those most likely to bind to the coronavirus protein that allows the virus to infect host cells.
Jeremy Smith, Director of the ORNL Center for Molecular Biophysics, was enthusiastic about the progress made with the help of IBM’s supercomputer, but also sought to temper expectations.
“Our results don’t mean that we have found a cure or treatment for the coronavirus,” he said. “We are very hopeful, though, that our computational finding will both inform future studies and provide a framework that experimentalists will use to further investigate these compounds. Only then will we know whether any of them exhibit characteristics needed to migrate this virus.”
Meanwhile, IBM chief Ginni Rometty said the company’s technical leaders have been asked “to consider all options to help government and health agencies monitor and manage the outbreak.”
“IBM Clinical Development system has been made available – without charge – to national health agencies to reduce the time and cost of clinical trials by providing data and analysis from web-enabled devices. And our cognitive Operational Risk Insight tool has been made available to not-for-profit organisations,” she added.
COVID-19 is believed to have originated in the Chinese province of Wuhan. To date, more than 115,000 cases have been confirmed and roughly 4,000 have died.
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