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SLING: How Slovenian supercomputers are helping find a cure for COVID-19

As part of the global Folding@home project, which also includes the Slovenian supercomputer network SLING, researchers study the formation of proteins and their impact on various diseases using sate-of-the-art simulation models and computational techniques of distributed computing.

Ever since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and the birth of a global pandemic, researchers have embarked on an intensive search for antibodies to treat this viral disease. The Slovenian National Supercomputing Network (SLING) joined these efforts with its infrastructure. In addition to supercomputers at the Jožef Stefan and Arnes institutes, the contribution of supercomputers from the HPC RIVR consortium at the Faculty of Computer Science in Novo Mesto and the University of Maribor is also very relevant and worthy of note. The largest public prototype HPC Maister supercomputer contributes 3,000 computing cores to the project.

Participation in a joint effort of the global research community

“We are extremely pleased that by using our available supercomputer infrastructure within the HPC RIVR and SLING consortium, we are able to make an important contribution to the global research community’s efforts in finding an effective cure for COVID-19”, said Prof. Dr. Zoran Ren, the project manager of HPC RIVR and Deputy Dean of Research at the University of Maribor. “We believe that by the joint use of global supercomputer capabilities to perform complex computer simulations, we will make a significant contribution to a faster search for effective drugs for both COVID-19 and other diseases that can be treated with protein antibodies.”

What is the network’s computing capacity?

SLING is among the 2,000 most active groups out of a total of 250,000 currently participating in the project, which together provide a total computing capacity of around 1.2 exaflops or 1.2 billion billion computing operations per second on around one million of connected computers. The results of computer simulations help scientists better understand the behavior of different forms of proteins and thus allow them to more quickly determine their specific shape required for successful treatment of many diseases, currently focusing on the search for antibodies for the treatment of COVID-19.