Reaching the 2 million mark of COVID-19 infections in a matter of weeks had scientists and researchers finding themselves in a race against time. Various global technology companies offered free services to help them accelerate a breakthrough in vaccine and cure.
IBM recently called on ordinary individuals who have personal computing devices and an internet connection to “help scientists seek chemical compounds that might be effective against COVID-19.” Scripps Research is spearheading this project, which will be hosted on IBM’s World Community Grid, a software that allows people to use their computers as normal without compromising data safety or speed.
“IBM’s World Community Grid is a resource that not only empowers scientists to accelerate vital work on a large scale but also gives volunteers a sense of empowerment, joining with others all over the globe to make a difference,” said Guillermo Miranda, VP and head of corporate social responsibility at IBM. “During a time of social distancing and isolation, this sense of purpose and interconnectedness is as important as ever.”
Anyone who is interested in science or just wants to pitch in can volunteer to participate in the project called “OpenPandemics – COVID-19,” through virtual experiments that include identifying chemical compounds “including those in existing medicines, that could potentially be used as treatment candidates for COVID-19. Compounds that show promise for treating COVID-19 will undergo further testing and analysis.”
To take part, volunteers can download an app “that works when their devices are otherwise idle or in light use and distributes computational assignments and returns completed calculations to researchers, all through the IBM cloud.”
The “OpenPandemics – COVID-19” project on World Community Grid complement the other resources IBM has recently made available to researchers fighting COVID-19. Researchers at Oak Ridge National Lab and the University of Tennessee have used IBM POWER9-based Summit supercomputer in identifying 77 chemical compounds from a pool of 8,000 that could potentially fight the virus.
“Scripps Research is grateful to IBM for hosting our project on World Community Grid,” said Stefano Forli, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology at Scripps Research, and director of the project. “Tapping the unused processing power on thousands of idle computing devices provides us with an incredible amount of computing power to virtually screen millions of chemical compounds. Our joint effort with volunteers all over the world promises to accelerate our search for new, potential drug candidates that address present and future emerging biological threats, whether it is COVID-19 or an entirely different pathogen.”
Scientists, whose works require massive computing power to study humanitarian issues, have been using IBM’s World Community Grid free of charge.
By engaging volunteers, the project could perform hundreds of millions of calculations that are needed for simulations. The crowdsourced task lifts quite a burden from the scientists and may be able to help them accelerate vaccine, drug discovery or drug repurposing process.
To sign up, visit the website.