Suppose that the world was facing an unprecedented pandemic caused by a previously unknown virus. Suppose that somehow you had also assembled an unprecedented network of advanced supercomputers to be at the disposal of researchers to help slow the spread of this new virus and search for a cure.
While this may seem like a monumental logistical hurdle, the connections between researchers and supercomputers is paramount in order to be able to allocate vital supercomputer time to best serve the fight against this virus.
Now, in 2020, we find ourselves situated in this exact hypothetical. COVID-19 is precisely the sort of novel pandemic described above. To match this unprecedented public health crisis, the COVID-19 HPC Consortium has put together an unprecedented suite of supercomputers for researchers across the United States and around the world to use in fighting this deadly pandemic.
XSEDE and XSEDE Principal Investigator John Towns have stepped in to run the process of soliciting proposals to use the supercomputers of the COVID-19 HPC Consortium. They evaluate the proposals and connect researchers with the most appropriate supercomputer available to support a particular type of research. What’s more, these applications and allocations must be processed rapidly—necessitating twice-daily meetings co-chaired by Towns.
"What we are doing has never been done before. The collaboration between public, private, and government partners is unprecedented. To support the critical proposal submission and review process, XSEDE was able to readily extend the services we employ for our normal operations to support the Consortium and we have been able to redirect XSEDE resources to support this initiative,” said Towns.
Thanks to the XSEDE Resource Allocation Service (XRAS), which has been developed to allocate NSF-funded supercomputers for more than half a decade, the logistical challenges surrounding receiving, organizing, and evaluating proposals for fighting COVID-19 with supercomputers are addressed as a matter of course.
Thanks to XSEDE infrastructure and personnel connecting problems with supercomputers, the research going on right now includes:
- Screening drugs from traditional medicinal plants used by First Nations as potential treatments for COVID-19
- De novo drug discovery for fighting COVID-19
- Modeling and mitigating the effects of respiratory droplets containing the COVID-19 virus
- Using AI to discover what existing medicines might be effective as treatment for COVID-19
A full list of the projects approved so far for use of the computers in the COVID-19 HPC Consortium is online at https://covid19-hpc-consortium.org/projects
“XSEDE is a proud key partner in the Consortium and we appreciate the incredible level of collegiality that has developed, spanning many institutions, agencies, and corporate partners,” said Towns.
This is just one example of how NSF-funded resources, the people involved in XSEDE, and the many institutions that are a part of XSEDE are able to nimbly and effectively collaborate to aid society, both during times of crisis and otherwise.