NASA supercomputers are working hard on COVID-19 research

Shane McGlaun - Jun 1, 2020, 7:37am CDT
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NASA supercomputers are working hard on COVID-19 research

NASA is lending some of its supercomputing muscle to COVID-19 research. NASA’s supercomputers have been working on a range of projects, including basic science, on how the virus interacts with the cells in the human body to genetic risk factors to screening for potential therapeutic drugs. NASA’s joined a consortium of institutions that is pairing up supercomputing resources with proposals for using high-end computing for COVID-19 research studies.

The effort was organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and other partners working on the project include IBM, HP Enterprise, Amazon, Microsoft, and others. Also, participating in the project is the Department of Energy’s National Labs, the National Science Foundation, and multiple universities. In all, the consortium is supporting 64 projects and is open to new proposals.

So far, four projects have been matched to NASA. NASA is clear that COVID-19 research isn’t its regular work, but that it has the supercomputers expertise to help scientists working on this type of research. Supercomputers are ideally suited for processing large amounts of data. Typically NASA uses its computing resources for simulating movements of air masses and water around the planet for climate study.

NASA supercomputers are also used for hunting for exoplanets, studying the behavior of black holes, and for designing aeronautic or aerospace vehicles. One of the supercomputers being used is located at Ames, and it’s being used to identify genetic risk factors for acute respiratory distress syndrome or ARDS. ARDS is a complication that goes along with COVID-19 occurring when the disease causes fluid buildup in the lungs and often requires a ventilator to help the patients breathe.

NASA is partnering with healthcare provider Northern California Kaiser Permanente, for its COVID-19 study. NASA says that not all patients are equally at risk of developing ARDS. The researchers want to compare the groups and analyze relationships between genes and COVID-19 outcomes. The supercomputers are also processing through molecular geometry to search for possible drug therapies. This project is in partnership with MIT and runs software on the supercomputer that processes new 3D models of molecules from their known chemical compositions. Numerous other research projects are underway with full details at the source link above.


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