Alibaba, IBM, Microsoft and NVIDIA give access to their technologies to find solution for Covid-19 outbreak

Venkatesh Ganesh Mumbai | Updated on March 22, 2020

Multi-national tech giants like Alibaba, IBM, Microsoft and NVIDIA have given access to their technologies in an effort to find a solution for the Covid-19 outbreak.

IBM’s supercomputer Summit has run thousands of simulations, aided by a computing speed of 200 quadrillion calculations per second, to analyse which drug compounds could effectively stop the virus in its tracks.

Similarly, NVIDIA has made its Parabricks genome-sequencing software available for free to researchers sequencing the coronavirus and the genomes of those suffering from Covid-19.

Efforts began in January, when the complete Covid-19 genome was made available in GenBank. In the same month, France-based Institut Pasteur, sequenced the whole genome of the coronavirus known as ‘2019-nCoV’.

Others like the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute has posted the complete genome of the virus on the UCSC Genome Browser, an interactive web-based tool used by researchers all over the world to study genetic data. However, analysing genomic sequences takes time and computing muscle. This is where IBM and NVIDIA have stepped in.

In a blog post, NVIDIA said: “Parabricks can slash the time for variant calling on an entire human genome from two days to just one hour on a single server, giving researchers a powerful tool with which to help better understand the virus. NVIDIA has provided a free 90-day license to Parabricks to any researcher in the worldwide effort to fight the novel coronavirus.”

Based on the well-known Genome Analysis Toolkit, Parabricks uses GPUs to accelerate the analysis of sequence data by as much as fifty times. We recognise this pandemic is evolving, so we’ll monitor the situation and extend the offer as needed, the post added.

Further, for researchers working with Oxford Nanopore long-read data, a repository of GPU-accelerated tools is available on GitHub. In addition, the following applications already have NVIDIA GPU acceleration built in: Medaka, Racon, Raven, Reticulatus, Unicycler.

“Right now, we have been making educative guesses based on the past. With tech we can narrow the permutations and combinations of nutraceutical (and other) ingredients,” said Rajesh Mahadevan, a Bengaluru-based doctor who in the past was involved with the United Nations-related projects.

Other tech majors like Alibaba, through its cloud computing platform has offered medical personnel around the world technology to fight Covid-19. The Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) is using Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service to create a Covid-19 assessment chatbot — from screening Americans, provide them advice on whether to seek medical care to answering questions on coronavirus.

Published on March 22, 2020

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