What’s New in Computing vs. COVID-19: Bars, Visualizations, New Therapeutics & More

By Oliver Peckham

October 30, 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.


Nvidia uses Folding@home data to visualize moving spike proteins

Folding@home’s crowdsourced network of volunteer computers, which has boomed during the pandemic, have enabled the production of massive datasets describing the folding of SARS-CoV-2’s viral proteins – particularly the spike protein. A scientific visualization team at Nvidia used that dataset to produce a haunting, ultra-high-resolution fly-through visualization of those proteins. To read more, click here.

Calculations on Comet boost understanding of immune responses to foreign pathogens

Researchers at the San Diego Supercomputer Center used Comet to assist a study on T cell receptors that the team says will inform understanding on the adaptive immune system’s response to pathogens like SARS-CoV-2. “Our most recent study puts us one step closer to truly understanding the extreme and beneficial diversity in the immune system, and identifying features of immunity that are shared by most people,” said James E. Crowe, Jr., director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center of Vanderbilt University Medical Center. To read more, click here.

The raloxifene molecule.

Supercomputer research leads to clinical study of potential COVID-19 therapeutic

Research conducted under the auspices of European public-private consortium Exscalate4CoV has led to the approval of a human clinical trial studying the use of the existing osteoporosis drug raloxifene for the treatment of mild cases of COVID-19. Raloxifene was one of several drugs to emerge from a massive supercomputer-powered screening of hundreds of thousands of candidate molecules. The researchers are hopeful that the drug may halt the progression of infection in certain cases. To read more, click here.

Researchers use supercomputing to study the minute movements of the coronavirus’ proteins

SARS-CoV-2’s notorious spike protein, which allows it to infect human cells, relies on movement to pry open and enter host cells. While the basic stages of its movement were imaged early in the year, the intermediary states between those stages had not been fully captured – until now. Researchers from UC Berkeley and Istanbul Technical University used TACC supercomputers to simulate these minute movements, identifying potential middle states that could serve as useful drug targets. To read more, click here.

The Fugaku system. Image courtesy of RIKEN.

RIKEN teams with businesses to study and reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection in restaurants and bars

Japanese research institute RIKEN, host of the Top500-leading supercomputer Fugaku, has teamed up with Suntory Liquors Ltd. and Toppan Printing Co., Ltd. to develop face shields specifically for eating and drinking in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection in restaurants and bars. The study is making use of Fugaku, which has been involved in a variety of viral droplet simulations. To read more, click here.

Corona supercomputer receives major upgrade for coronavirus research

The (coincidentally named) Corona supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has received a major upgrade to assist with its research on the coronavirus. The system now boasts almost 1,000 new AMD Radeon Instinct MI50 GPUs, more than doubling its speed (for a total of 11 peak petaflops). “The expansion of Corona allows us to routinely run the computationally intensive molecular dynamics simulations to obtain the free energy between antibodies-antigens,” said LLNL COVID-19 researcher Felice Lightstone. To read more, click here.

Brookhaven National Laboratory issues update on its work to fight the coronavirus

Since early this year, Brookhaven National Laboratory has been supporting a range of projects aimed at combating COVID-19. The lab recently issued an update on its research, highlighting a variety of supercomputer-supported research, including a scalable high-performance computing and AI infrastructure that allows for high-throughput ensemble docking studies and AI-driven molecular dynamics simulations. To read more, click here.


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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