IBM, MIT, other heavy hitters join White House’s push to counter COVID-19 with supercomputing

The White House is working with IBM and the U.S. Department of Energy to launch a sprawling public-private consortium aimed at rapidly “unleashing the full capacity of America’s world-class supercomputers” to fight COVID-19.

In a March 23 announcement, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy invites researchers working on treatments, cures and vaccines to apply for access to the broadly sourced compute power.

The processing muscle will come from the combined resources of various federal agencies and laboratories, several major IT corporations and two technical institutions of higher learning.

On board from industry to volunteer free compute time and resources on their machines are IBM, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

From academia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are pitching in.

Participating federal-government bodies include NASA and the National Science Foundation, along with the Argonne, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Sandia National Laboratories.

“By providing researchers access to world leading technology here in our own backyard, we take an additional leap toward ending this pandemic,” says Paul Dabbar, undersecretary for science in the DOE, in the announcement.

Dario Gil, director of IBM Research, adds that speeding the sprint to find an answer to COVID-19 “is of vital importance to us all. By bringing together the world’s most advanced supercomputers and matching them with the best ideas and expertise, this consortium can drive real progress in this global fight.”

The consortium will assess COVID-19 related research proposals submitted via an online portal. Each proposal will be assessed by a panel made up of scientists and researchers, who will be especially keen on projects that can ensure rapid results, according to the consortium’s introduction page.

The panel will then match successful proposers with computing resources from one of the partnering entities.