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IBM Supercomputer Identifies 77 Compounds That Could Fight Coronavirus

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Luis Monzon
Luis Monzon
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The Summit supercomputer, the fastest supercomputer on Earth, has more computing power than any other non-distributed system. Earlier this month, the US Department and Energy announced that it will turn the system’s enormous computing power towards the COVID-19 pandemic.

The machine has been crunching the numbers and has since identified 77 chemical compounds that could help stop the virus, according to Extreme Tech.

[Tweet “The Summit supercomputer has identified 77 chemical compounds that could help stop the #coronavirus.”]

The Supercomputer

By a wide margin, Summit is the most powerful supercomputer on Earth, and it is the world’s third most energy-efficient. Using 10MW of power to keep its 9,216 POWER9 22-core CPUs and 27,648 Nvidia Telsa V100 GPs humming.

The supercomputer’s theoretical peak performance rests at 200 petaflops – one petaflop is about one quadrillion operations per second – and in practice has demonstrated 148.6 petaflops while at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The Target

The focus of Summit’s cosmically vast computing power is a specific protein on the surface of the virus particle. SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus, needs to infect cells to make copies of itself, and it manages this with the help of the Spike protein.

These molecules on the surface of the virus link to enzyme receptors on human cells, allowing the virus to inject its genome and hijack cellular machinery.

The supercomputer has run simulations on more than 8,000 compounds, looking for any sort of molecule that could render the virus inert. Now, early results suggest that there are 77 compounds that could bind to the Spike protein, preventing it from binding to human cells.

What Summit Can’t Do

While Summit is the very mountain top for raw computing power, the nuances behind the clinical aspects of creating a “cure” for COVID-19 are better left for human minds, and while the computer has flagged 77 molecules to use against the virus, it isn’t even yet known if the compounds are safe for humans.

Medical authorities will have to trial and evaluate each compound, conducting lab testing. Eventually, a few of them may lead to clinical trials on humans.

If clinical trials prove a success and a treatment is fabricated, it could slow down the rate of infection that is currently tightening its grip around the throat of the world.

This treatment could aid communities all over the world, while the more difficult vaccine is made – ensuring COVID-19 is no longer an issue in the future.

Edited by Luis Monzon

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