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High-tech brigade battles COVID-19 with bytes and bandwidth

News 12's Tara Rosenblum gives us an inside look at a research lab where the fight against the coronavirus has gone high-tech, as well as the computer scientist at the helm of the revolutionary, global effort.

News 12 Staff

Nov 23, 2020, 11:15 PM

Updated 1,301 days ago

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Imagine the power of a million of the fastest laptops in the world working together in the fight against COVID-19 - and you'll get an idea about a new consortium established by a Yorktown Heights-based doctor.
News 12's Tara Rosenblum gives us an inside look at a research lab where the fight against the coronavirus has gone high-tech, as well as the computer scientist at the helm of the revolutionary, global effort.
Dr. Dario Gil is the director of IBM Research, and oversees one of the largest corporate laboratories on the planet.
"It's capable of doing something like 200,000 trillion calculations a second," he says.
Dr. Gil unleashed this "muscle power" on the front lines of the pandemic in its earliest hours - and created the largest public-private computing partnership in history.
Dr. Gil says the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium came to be with a call to the White House.
"I said I think this is an idea that we should do nationally and involve different agencies and different companies...and from that call, it was launched," he says.
So basically overnight, Gil took world's biggest tech competitors, including Intel, Nvidia, Google and others, and created one team to fight COVID-19.
"It was a moment where we said we all want to help," he says. "No one talked about competition or credit."
News 12 spoke with Dr. Gil at the IBM Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, where he explained how aggregating the world's supercomputing power allowed them to complete experiments that typically take months or years in just days.
"They took 8,000 compounds that they wanted to analyze to see if they would bind to the spike protein of the coronavirus, and they were able to do in two days all the simulations," he says.
One aspect to their research is how artificial intelligence and supercomputers can measure compliance - like mask wearing and social distancing. This data can give a snapshot of how the pandemic might look in six months.
"As we gather more statistics, then you can start creating models that give you a sense of what may happen," he says.
He predicts that the data will help fight future pandemics.


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