Supercomputing consortium further solidifies White House partnership with tech on coronavirus response

Government, industry and academic partners' 16 systems will provide a combined 330 petaflops of supercomputing capacity for select COVID-19 researchers.
supercomputing supercomputer
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The White House’s loose partnership with the tech industry on coronavirus response continues to take shape with the announcement of a supercomputing consortium to speed the work of COVID-19 researchers.

Government, industry and academic partners have volunteered supercomputing time and other resources to researchers who are studying ways to limit the virus’ spread. The White House unveiled the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday.

Combined, the consortium’s 16 systems equal 330 petaflops of supercomputing capacity that can complete, in hours or days, the required calculations on bioinformatics, epidemiology, molecular modeling and health-care system response. Additional cloud computing resources are forthcoming.

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


Five DOE national laboratories, the National Science Foundation and NASA belong to the consortium, which was convened by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

OSTP encouraged researchers to submit COVID-19 research proposals for review and matching with computing resources via an online portal. A panel of scientists and computing researchers will assess the public health benefits of each proposal.

“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, in a statement. “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’s Summit is the most powerful supercomputer on the planet, according to the tech company. The POWER9-based supercomputer has already allowed researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee to screen about 8,000 compounds for those most likely to bind to the coronavirus’ main “spike” protein — preventing it from infecting host cells.

The 77 small-molecule drug compounds recommended can now be experimentally tested.


Other industry partners in the consortium are Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Academic partners are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

OSTP’s consortium comes on the heels of its release of the most extensive collection of machine-readable coronavirus literature for data and text mining by the tech industry on behalf of scientists.

On March 11, the office held an initial call with tech companies seeking artificial intelligence breakthroughs in coronavirus response.

“America is coming together to fight COVID-19,” said Michael Kratsios, U.S. chief technology officer, in a statement. “And that means unleashing the full capacity of our world-class supercomputers to rapidly advance scientific research for treatments and a vaccine.”

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