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Sandia, LANL help hunt for vaccine

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Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory are playing roles in the search for a vaccine and other medications to halt the spread of COVID-19.

The two New Mexico facilities are part of a network of government and private laboratories providing computing resources and personnel to scientists involved in the hunt for a vaccine and treatments for coronavirus.

Their efforts could mean the difference in finding medications and vaccines in the next few weeks or months as opposed to years, Argonne National Laboratory Associate Director Rick Stevens said during a teleconference with representatives from the five national laboratories that are part of the effort.

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“Our national laboratories house the top supercomputers in the country,” Department of Energy Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar said. Also involved in the effort are Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge national labs.

Although the labs are known more for their nuclear energy and nuclear weapons research, they’ve already been involved in the design of medications. Los Alamos has been involved with cancer research.

“This taps into an effort already underway in the industry and academia,” said Irene Qualters, Los Alamos associate director for simulation and computation.

The computing system being made available through the network will be able to process numbers of calculations related to bioinformatics, epidemiology and molecular modeling, Dabbar said.

“It will help scientists develop complex scientific questions about COVID-19 in hours or days,” he said.

But Qualters said providing computing space and data storage “was not enough.”

To that end, the labs will provide scientists and researchers who know how the systems work, Scott Collins of Sandia National Laboratories said.

He said both facilities and research talent would be made available.

The network of labs is part of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium launched by the Trump administration this week. The consortium also includes Amazon, IBM, Google, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and NASA.

Researchers are invited to submit COVID-19-related proposals to the consortium, which will then be reviewed and matched with computing resources from one of the partner institutions, the DOE said.