Summit, IBM’s supercomputer equipped with the “brain of AI,” ran thousands of simulations to analyze which drug compounds might effectively stop the virus from infecting host cells.
Summit was built to solve the world’s problems
It’s got the power of 200 petaflops, which means it has the computing speed of 200 quadrillion calculations per second, aka: It’s 1 million times more powerful than the fastest laptop.
How Summit fights coronavirus
Viruses infect host cells by injecting them with a “spike” of genetic material. Summit’s job is to find drug compounds that could bind to that spike and potentially stop the spread.
Oak Ridge researcher Micholas Smith created a model of the coronavirus spike based on research published in January. With Summit, he simulated how the atoms and particles in the viral protein would react to different compounds.
The supercomputer ran simulations of over 8,000 compounds that could bind to the spike protein of the virus, which could limit its ability to spread to host cells. Summit identified 77 of them and ranked them based on how likely they were to bind to the spike.
For all its power, though, Summit can only do so much. It provided the first step in analysis: identifying promising compounds. Experimental studies are required next to prove which chemicals work best.
But the findings could inform future studies.
CORRECTION: The headline and the piece have been corrected to say the supercomputer’s work is a crucial step toward a treatment for coronavirus, not a vaccine.