High-performance computers used in the fight against COVID-19

Insight Media has been telling the stories of scientists from various disciplines who have come together to help fight COVID-19 using high-performance computing

As the world was sent reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists from all over Europe began to collaborate with unprecedented speed to find ways to stop its deadly spread and reduce its impact on our health and economy.

Central to much of this vital work were high-performance computers, machines capable of millions of calculations per second and able to model the virus in all its complexity so that we could understand how it works and, ultimately, defeat it.

We have been privileged to be able to work with PRACE, the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe, on a very special publication celebrating some of the brilliant work done using supercomputers – and this publication is available to read now.

Graphical representation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus surface (grey) with the spike proteins highlighted in blue. Image source: Courtesy of Dr. L. Casalino, Amaro Lab, UCSD.

The PRACE Digest we produced focuses entirely on projects awarded under the PRACE Fast Track Call for Proposals, a call specifically designed to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PRACE opened this call in early spring 2020 as an urgent computing answer to find ways to stop the spread of the virus and find treatments for people affected by the disease.

As a result of this fast action by PRACE, 30 projects were quickly awarded time on their world-class systems with half a billion computational hours awarded over a period of just six months.

That was a massive achievement and it brought together researchers from a wide variety of scientific disciplines as diverse as biomolecular simulations, bioinformatics, epidemiology, computational fluid dynamics, screening and docking, among many others. And, thanks to EU funding, these scientists were able to combine their talents in this global emergency and fight a common enemy.

Now you can read how high-performance computers led these amazing discoveries – how fluid dynamic tools usually reserved for designing aeroplane engines helped us discover how the virus spreads in enclosed environments, and how modelling the spread of COVID-19 helped us design effective vaccination strategies.

You can also find out how this massive computational effort helped scientists investigate the potential antiviral properties of herapin, a drug first discovered 100 years ago, while it also provided support in discovering the path of the virus from bats to humans which, as a result, has had a huge impact on our understanding of viral mutations.

Insight Media was enormously proud to be able to speak with these brilliant people and write about the inspiring work they have done that has ultimately led to a better understanding of the virus, improved treatments and effective vaccines.

Download a full PDF of the PRACE Digest 2020 – PRACE Against COVID-19.


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