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PDC & PRACE Helping COVID-19 Research

Lilit Axner, PDC

The whole world is fighting against COVID-19 and so is PRACE, the European high-performance computing (HPC) infrastructure, together with its 26 members, representing European Union member states and associated countries. Fighting COVID-19 involves extensive research in areas like bioinformatics, chemistry and molecular modelling to find a cure as well as finding ways to eradicate the virus. However, to be successful, these research areas need steady ongoing support in terms of computing resources, such as HPC systems. We also know that COVID-19 is having an immense impact on the world economy and thus drastic measures will be required to boost the economy globally. Economical models and predictions that use HPC in their calculations may help the world economy to recover.

PRACE is welcoming project proposals requesting computing resources to contribute to mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This Call for Proposals follows a fast-track review process to provide swift feedback to the applicants. PRACE has established a scientific committee to discuss the merits of the proposals; it is supported by external scientific experts, and a technical team.

Already three projects – two from Spain and one from Germany – are taking advantage of this opportunity to use their calculation models to study, for example, the transmission dynamics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus or the molecular and dynamical SARS-CoV-2/hACE2 recognition and inhibition mechanisms. (ACE2 is an enzyme that is attached to the outer surface of certain cells, such as in the lungs, and which often enables corona-viruses to enter those cells. The human version of the enzyme is known as hACE2.) These projects have access to the seven largest HPC systems in Europe.

However, the support from PRACE does not end with that. Most of the PRACE partners have expressed their interest in going even further and opening up their Tier-1 systems for COVID-19 research as well. Access possibilities through fast track DECI calls, where PDC has also committed up to 5 million core hours to COVID-19 international research, are likely to be open for applications soon. This commitment from PDC via PRACE is in addition to PDC having already announced that Beskow and Tegner are available for Swedish COVID-19 research.