IBM, in collaboration with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the US Department of Energy and others, is helping launch the Covid-19 High Performance Computing Consortium.

The grouping will bring an unprecedented amount of computing power – 16 systems with more than 330 petaflops, 775 000 CPU cores, 34 000 GPUs, and more – to help researchers everywhere better understand Covid-19, its treatments and potential cures.

Dario Gil, director of IBM Research, explains that high-performance supercomputers 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.

By pooling the supercomputing capacity under a consortium of partners, including IBM, Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL), Argonne National Lab (ANL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Sandia National Laboratory (SNL), Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), and multiple leading technology companies, the Covid-19 High Performance Computing Consortium can offer supercomputing power to scientists, medical researchers and government agencies as they respond to and mitigate this global emergency.

IBM’s Summit, arguably 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.

Gil says that scientists were thus able to recommend the 77 promising small-molecule drug compounds that could now be experimentally tested.

“Now we must scale, and IBM will work with our consortium partners to evaluate proposals from researchers around the world and provide access to this supercomputing capacity for the projects that can have the most immediate impact,” he says.