The Fugaku supercomputer has chosen dozens of prospective COVID-19 remedies from more than 2,000 drugs, researchers said Friday.
The announcement was made by a team of researchers from Kyoto University and the state-backed Riken, the research body leading the development of the supercomputer.
The team, including Kyoto University professor Yasushi Okuno, is screening drugs to find those that can bond to proteins related to the infection and growth of the novel coronavirus and inactivate them.
Jointly developed by the Kobe-based Riken and electronics firm Fujitsu Ltd., Fugaku claimed the top spot in a recently announced ranking of the world’s fastest supercomputers. It won four of six major categories, including speed.
Fugaku performed over 415 quadrillion computations per second, around 2.8 times faster than the Summit system developed by the U.S. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which secured the top spot in the last ranking in November 2019.
In the latest research, Fugaku was used to conduct molecule-level simulations. It spent 10 days on simulations for 2,128 existing drugs and picked dozens that bond easily to the proteins.
The dozens include 12 drugs undergoing clinical trials overseas and those that have eluded the radar of those looking for potential coronavirus remedies.
The team will continue its research using Fugaku. It will also negotiate with patent holders of potential drugs so clinical trials to develop COVID-19 treatments can be started early.
Aside from molecule-level simulations, supercomputers can also be used to simulate nuclear explosions and climate change. Given all the earthquakes in Japan, researchers are pinning their hopes on Fugaku’s capacity to simulate the impact of major earthquake and tsunami so they can map out escape routes.
“We were able to stand out in all the key specifications for supercomputers and demonstrate it is the world’s highest-performing. We expect it will aid in solving difficult societal problems such as the fight against the novel coronavirus,” Satoshi Matsuoka, director of the institute’s computational science center. said last month.
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