Coronavirus outbreak: NVIDIA opens its genome-sequence software to researchers

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: March 20, 2020 5:19:51 pm

Coronavirus outbreak: NVIDIA is giving researchers access to its genome-sequence software for free. (Image source: NVIDIA)

NVIDIA is opening up access to its Parabricks genome-sequencing software to researchers working on the coronavirus for free of cost. The tool will be accessible to all researchers who are sequencing the COVID-19 genomes and the genomes of those suffering from COVID-19, according to a press statement from the company.

NVIDIA says that Parabricks can slash the time for variant calling on an entire human genome from two days to just one hour on a single server, giving researchers a powerful tool with which to help better understand the virus. The company will give a free 90-day license to Parabricks to any researcher in the world.

The tool uses the company’s graphics processing units (GPUs) to accelerate the analysis of sequence data by fifty times, according to the company. Researchers who want access and have an NVIDIA GPU can fill up the form and get the license. NVIDIA says they will extend the offer as needed and are monitoring how the pandemic evolves.

For scientists who are trying to find a cure to the coronavirus, which has globally infected close to 200,000 people, understanding the genome sequence of the virus is crucial, but in most cases it is a long and time-consuming effort. With tools like the Parabricks, it can help save on time, which is a critical factor right now considering that the pandemic shows no signs of stopping.

The reason genome sequencing becomes important in viruses, is because many of these undergo genetic changes, and by tracking genetic changes it is possible to know which vaccines will work, whether there have been mutations, and which treatment will be most effective. For instance, the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) website notes that the influenza viruses are constantly evolving and tracking their genetic code can help keep a better track.

With new COVID-19 this is a new strain, and believed to part of the family of coronaviruses, which cause common cold, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). But the COVID-2019 strain is one that has not be previously studied and thus genome tracking can give a clearer picture around this virus.

Earlier it was reported that the IBM’s Summit, which is the world’s most powerful supercomputer, was also used to help run simulations to understand which chemical compounds would work best against the virus.

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