Consortium to accelerate scientific discovery in fight against COVID-19

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 242 views 

A public-private consortium that includes federal agencies, technology industry and academic leaders will use U.S. supercomputers to increase the speed in which scientists can develop answers to complex scientific questions about COVID-19, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

President Donald Trump announced Sunday (March 22) the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium will be spearheaded by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the DOE and IBM. The consortium will provide COVID-19 researchers with access to the most powerful supercomputers in the United States to advance the pace of scientific discovery in the fight to stop the virus.

Researchers can submit COVID-19 related research proposals to the consortium via an online portal, and they will be reviewed and matched with computing resources from one of the partner institutions. Link here for the portal. An expert panel that includes top scientists and computing researchers will work with the proposers to assess the public health benefits of the work and coordinate the allocation of the group’s computing assets.

The consortium has a pool of 16 systems with a combined supercomputing capacity of more than 330 petaflops. A petaflop is a measure of a computer’s processing speed, and one petaflop is equal to a quadrillion, or thousand trillion, floating point operations per second. The consortium also will offer cloud computing resources. The computing systems of the consortium can process calculations related to bioinformatics, epidemiology, molecular modeling and healthcare system response. The systems are expected to help scientists to develop answers to complex scientific questions about COVID-19 in hours or days instead of weeks or months.

“The Department of Energy is home to the world’s fastest and most powerful supercomputers, and we are eager to partner with leaders across industry and the scientific community who will use our world class innovation and technology to combat COVID-19,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.

Paul Dabbar, undersecretary for the DOE, said the federal agency’s National Labs have contributed to “profound advancements” in combatting COVID-19. “By providing researchers access to world technology here in our own backyard, we take an additional leap towards ending this pandemic,” Dabbar said. “We look forward to collaborating with scientists and researchers to bring an end to COVID-19.”

“Accelerating the process of discovery to unlock treatments and a cure for COVID-19 is of vital importance to us all,” said Dario Gil, director of IBM Research. “By bringing together the world’s most advanced supercomputers and matching them with the best ideas and expertise, this consortium can drive real progress in this global fight. IBM is proud to have helped kick-start this important effort.”

Consortium participants include IBM, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, National Science Foundation and NASA.

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