Is it possible that the cure for or end to the COVID-19 pandemic is buried somewhere deep in a field of 1s and 0s? That’s what the White House is hoping. On Monday, March 23, it announced that it had formed the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium to enable worldwide researchers to better and faster research the virus and potentially put an end to it.
At press time, more than 370,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide, and the virus has killed more than 16,000 people. In terms of the US, New York State has been hit the hardest of all 50 states, with more than 20,000 cases having been reported and causing more than 150 deaths.
“America is coming together to fight COVID-19, and that means unleashing the full capacity of our world-class supercomputers to rapidly advance scientific research for treatments and a vaccine,” said Michael Kratsios, US Chief Technology Officer, in a statement. The consortium includes tech world giants IBM, Amazon Web Services, the Google Cloud, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard Enterprise; experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Troy, NY-based college, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI); US Department of Energy laboratories, including Illinois’ Argonne National Laboratory, California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and New Mexico/California-based Sandia National Laboratories; as well as government agencies the National Science Foundation and NASA.
The White House put out an open call for researchers to submit proposals via an online portal, which would then be matched with the powerful computing resources, along with a panel of scientists and other researchers to see if there would be any public health benefit.
This comes in the wake of criticism regarding how the White House handled the initial response to the COVID-19 outbreak and its subsequent spread throughout the US. While the threat of the virus’ spread was initially downplayed by the president, the White House has since been on the offensive, declaring a national emergency, as well as announcing a previous partnership with the Ad Council, a number of major media networks (such as NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS) and digital platforms to get the word about the virus and safety measures that can be taken to prevent its spread.