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Petrobras mobilizes supercomputers to collaborate with research to combat Covid-19

03/25/2020 | 16h48

Petrobras will direct part of the processing capacity of high-performance computers (HPC) - the so-called "supercomputers" - to collaborate with research to combat coronavirus, in partnership with the Department of Chemistry at Stanford University, in the USA. The goal is to contribute to the Folding @ home Project, coordinated by this institution, dedicated to studying how the coronavirus behaves in the human body and how the disease evolves, from the interaction of viral proteins, paving the way for the development of medicines and vaccines . Among other advances, this project has already helped to identify, for example, the structure of the protein that connects Covid-19 to human cells.


Up to two supercomputers at the service of Petrobras may have part of their processing capacity redirected to these surveys: Santos Dumont, the largest supercomputer in Latin America, based at the National Laboratory for Scientific Computing (LNCC) in Petrópolis (RJ), which had its recently expanded capacity due to cooperation between the laboratory, the company and its Libra Consortium partners; and OGBON, the result of a partnership with Senai-Cimatec, installed in Salvador (BA). For the initiative, the company is working to mobilize 60% of Santos Dumont's capacity - 2 petaflops (equivalent to the computational capacity of 2 million laptops), in addition to 50% of Senai-Cimatec's capacity, corresponding to about 1 petaflops (or 1 million laptops).


The use of these supercomputers allows to speed up the time of the simulations for the researchers to reach faster results in their research. “We created a broad scientific front at Petrobras to raise solutions and ideas dedicated to fighting the coronavirus. We are developing solutions that are agile and simple, as is the case with the use of our supercomputers for the Folding @ home project, through which we were able to direct the processing capacity of these supercomputers to universities ”, explained the Director of Digital Transformation and Innovation from Petrobras, Nicolas Simone.


In addition to this initiative, Petrobras will mobilize its high-performance computing resources for research projects by Brazilian universities to combat the coronavirus. One of the potential projects, in partnership with PUC-Rio and Senai-Cimatec, is the use of artificial intelligence techniques (deep learning) to help differentiate an X-ray from a person with a normal flu from an X-ray a person with the coronavirus. The algorithms create repetition patterns and, by comparing data, it is possible to reach a diagnosis. This is a faster and cheaper test than a CT scan or a PCR blood test, for example.


Scientific front in the fight against coronavirus 

These initiatives are part of a broad front led by Petrobras, which is mobilizing its professionals from the most diverse areas of knowledge to develop ideas that can contribute to the fight against the coronavirus - in partnership with universities, companies, social organizations and institutions in Brazil and abroad. The objective is to propose solutions that can use the company's technology, equipment and technical consultancy structure to assist in the work to combat the pandemic, in the areas of coronavirus prevention, treatment and hospital support.


In the same movement to combat the coronavirus, Petrobras is also dedicated to initiatives such as donating supplies to institutions - including donating, for example, safety and hygiene items to the UFRJ Hospital - and mobilizing its structures for storage, among others. .


About Folding @ Home 

Launched in 2000, the Folding @ Home project is a consortium that brings together academic institutions and several North American research laboratories from a computer platform to allow simulations of various projects submitted by researchers from several universities around the world. The project has already managed, among other advances, to identify an opportunity for the treatment of the Ebola virus, which until then was considered incurable, through computer simulations and subsequent experiments. Now the project seeks to develop drugs to fight the coronavirus.

Font: T&B Petroleum/Petrobras Agency
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