Japan has dispatched its newest supercomputer to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus even though it is not fully completed, moving up its scheduled launch from next year.
Efforts to find treatments for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, are accelerating around the world. The anti-influenza drug Avigan has received widespread attention, but its effectiveness has yet to be determined.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and the nation's most prominent research laboratory, Riken, have decided to use the new supercomputer to research fundamental therapeutics.
Simulations using supercomputers have become an indispensable tool in new drug development. Kyoto University professor Yasushi Okuno will use Fugaku to discover new drug candidates for treating COVID-19 infections.
The research will examine in detail how drugs work on viruses at the molecular level. The goal is to find therapeutic candidates from about 2,000 existing drugs, including those not currently in clinical trials.
"I want to achieve some results in about a month," Okuno said.
The U.S. is also moving ahead with the use of supercomputers to fight the virus. The White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy formed a consortium of industry, government and academic leaders in late March. At present, 30 supercomputers are mobilized, including the world's fastest -- the IBM Summit.