What’s New in Computing vs. COVID-19: Faster Tests, Natural Medicine, Sugar & More

By Oliver Peckham

June 19, 2020

Supercomputing, big data and artificial intelligence are crucial tools in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Around the world, researchers, corporations and governments are urgently devoting their computing resources to this global crisis. This column collects the biggest news about how advanced technologies are helping us fight back against COVID-19.


Exscalate4CoV identifies a promising drug for treating COVID-19

The EU-funded, Italian-based consortium Exscalate4CoV, which is leveraging supercomputing and medical research to investigate drugs for COVID-19, has announced its first promising results. According to the supercomputer simulations, Raloxifene, a generic drug used to treat osteoporosis, may be effective in blocking the replication of COVID-19 in human cells. The drug is generally considered safe for patients and the consortium is now working to begin clinical trials for COVID-19 treatment.

The molecular docking simulations in action. Image courtesy of UAH.

Researchers use supercomputers to examine natural medicine for COVID-19 treatment

Scientists from the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) are investigating natural compounds, many of which are used in traditional medicine around the world, for their potential to inhibit COVID-19’s key proteins. The research is being conducted using supercomputing power provided by HPE: specifically, HPE’s cloud-based Sentinel system, a Texas-based Cray XC50 supercomputer.

PRACE awards ten more projects in the hunt for a COVID-19 cure

The Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) has awarded a further ten projects with a cumulative 227,578,000 core hours through its fast-track for COVID-19 research proposals. The projects range from examining the reactivity of COVID-19’s main protease to developing epitope vaccines, and techniques range from molecular dynamics to quantum mechanics.

UC Riverside researchers use supercomputing to investigate rapid COVID-19 tests

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have been awarded a grant from the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) to use the Anton 2 supercomputer to study the use of the CRISPR gene editing system to produce a faster test for COVID-19. Anton 2 will be used to observe the slow changes in molecules that currently bottleneck the process of viral detection.

The glycan shield (dark blue) protects the spike protein as it prepares to enter a human cell. Image courtesy of the researchers.

Frontera helps researchers investigate COVID-19’s insidious sugar coating

COVID-19’s spike proteins, which allow the virus to enter human cells, are coated in sugary glycans that trick the human immune system into thinking the virus is harmless. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Maynooth University in Dublin used the Frontera supercomputing at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) to model these glycans on the spike proteins, uncovering the surprising structural role they play.

BERG uses Summit to research COVID-19 drugs

Clinical-stage biotech firm BERG, which uses AI to develop treatments for diseases, has reached an agreement with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to use its Summit supercomputer to research drugs for COVID-19. Summit, the world’s fastest publicly ranked supercomputer, will combine BERG’s human derived disease model for rapid target identification with ORNL’s drug development research.

The University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne uses supercomputing to research COVID-19

In France, the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne is using its ROMEO supercomputer to search for new molecules capable of neutralizing COVID-19 as part of HT-Covid program initiated by Reims Molecular Chemistry Institute. ROMEO will simulate the 3D structures of the molecules and the target proteins to examine binding strength.


Do you know about COVID-19 research that should be featured on this list? If so, send us an email at [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you.

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