A consortium of U.S. government agencies and private industry is using the U.S. space agency NASA’s supercomputer to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, examining everything from how the virus interacts with cells in the human body, to genetic risk factors, to screening for potential therapeutic drugs.
The consortium was organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and includes industry partners IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Amazon, Microsoft and others, as well as the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories, the National Science Foundation, and several universities.
The consortium is a pairing up supercomputing resources with proposals for using high-end computing power for COVID-19 studies. The agency’s supercomputer is housed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in northern California, and, while it is usually used for Earth and space-related projects, it has time reserved for national priorities.
Supercomputers are suited for processing large amounts of data and are invaluable for NASA’s usual projects, such as running simulations used to hunting for planets outside our solar system, studying the behavior of black holes, or designing aeronautic or aerospace vehicles.
Likewise, it is well-suited for running simulations to help researchers understand COVID-19. The computer-run simulations help researchers understand how the coronavirus reacts on the cellular and molecular level.
The NASA computer so far is being used to study genetic risk factors in the virus that may lead to Respiratory Distress Syndrome, (ARDS); develop 3D molecular geometry to search for possible drug therapies against the virus, research the coronavirus’ protein shell and how it may be susceptible to drugs or vaccines, and to identify COVID-19-related biomarkers and how they react with the human body to cause reactions.