Massachusetts-based biotech company Berg, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technology to research and develop therapies, plans on using the Summit supercomputer at the Department of Energy laboratory. The company hopes to use the powerful computer to explore potential preventives and treatments for COVID-19.
According to Niven Narain, Berg president and CEO, the supercomputer offers an advanced, high-tech pathway to discovering potential solutions for the virus behind the pandemic.
"ORNL's Summit supercomputer presents unprecedented capabilities to address some of the most pressing challenges in science. The system's unmatched speed offers critical potential in conducting research rapidly to match the demands of the outbreak," he said.
"This joint effort will allow us to mobilize world class resources and combine BERG's AI capabilities to conduct comprehensive therapeutic research that can lead to a quicker path in combating COVID-19,” Narain added.
Jeremy Smith, governor’s chair at the University of Tennessee and director of the UT/ORNL Center for Molecular Biophysics, said the stakeholders are optimistic about the partnership’s potential.
"Our hope is that this agreement will lay a strong foundation to tackle the virus," Smith said. "This is exactly the kind of extraordinary situation the Summit system was designed for."
Smith's research on the Summit supercomputer (reportedly the first ever partnership between a biotech firm and governmental department) involves the use of simulations to analyze drug compounds with the potential to prevent host cell infection. The partnership with Berg reportedly aims to extend this effort by combining Berg’s human-derived disease model for rapid identification of targets with ORNL's drug development research to identify the best-ranked treatment candidates.
With Berg’s access to the world’s most powerful supercomputer, the company reportedly will be able to leverage its Interrogative Biology platform to assist in conducting research that identifies high-priority targets where drug treatment could be introduced to treat COVID-19 infections.
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE's Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the US.