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UAH team uses supercomputers in COVID-19 drug search

By DEVIN PAVLOU, Alabama Daily News

Scientists at the University of Alabama at Huntsville are using supercomputers to study the effectiveness of different drug compounds and COVID-19.

Dr. Jerome Baudry leads the UAH lab working with a team from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s SUMMIT, the most powerful supercomputer in the world,  to analyze existing compounds that may affect COVID-19.

“We are at this point focusing on repurposing existing drugs,” Baudry said in a statement from UAH. “That is, to take existing drugs from the shelf and find which ones are active against either the virus itself or can help in treating or mitigating the effects of infection in the severe cases.”

Compounds under review include drugs already available with safe profiles, as well as natural products. Compounds identified as possible future drugs will also be studied. In the initial stage, no new drugs will be under development, according to UAH.

UAH supercomputers are testing millions of these drug compounds each day to see which are beneficial against COVID-19, Baudry said.

“We can use high performance computers and supercomputers to look at the entire genome of the virus, see everything the virus’ genome is making and build computational models of all these proteins, and repeat the repurposing process for each of these proteins,” Baudry said.

This week, U.S. government officials announced that remdesivir, a drug recently studied by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and other clinical trial locations, has been shown to be effective against the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institutes of Health’s Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the drug would be the “standard of care” for coronavirus patients.

Baudry in March was given access to the Alabama Supercomputer Authority’s High Performance Computing services.

“The Alabama Supercomputer Authority is proud to support all university research and especially play a part in COVID research to help the state of Alabama and our country,” ASA Chief Executive Officer Walter Overby told Alabama Daily News. 

Baudry said testing will take time, even if they find a drug that is active against the virus. 

“If our colleagues tell us that, yes, indeed, one of the existing drug that we prioritized could be active against the virus – then it will still take a bit of time to get these to clinical use, but that’s definitely a big step forward,” Baudry said.


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