Researchers and volunteers have teamed up at the Slovenian project named COVID.SI – “Community science and the fight against Coronavirus” and are now able to tap into computational capabilities of Microsoft leading cloud platform Azure. For the implementation of the project, designed to analyze the chemical space that could be used in the development of the drug against COVID-19, the key lies in computing capabilities that are now complemented by the state-of-the-art Microsoft data centers.
Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology from the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from the University of Maribor, Intellimol, and Microsoft have also established long-term collaboration. Microsoft dedicated computing resources of the Azure platform to the project as a part of the Microsoft AI for Health program.
Slovenian project Community science and the fight against Coronavirus (COVID.SI) is an open initiative of the community of researchers and volunteers who want to contribute to the knowledge of the new Coronavirus and COVID-19. In the context of the project, they are looking for small molecules that display the potential to bind into protein receptors and inhibit processes that are essential for the functioning of the virus.
The project is run by Dr. Črtomir Podlipnik and Dr. Marko Jukić with many years of experience in the fields of computer-aided drug design, pharmaceutical chemistry, and chemo- or bioinformatics.
The project developed software that anyone can install on their computer to help in finding a cure. The Microsoft Azure cloud platform now complements the capabilities of this distributed computing.
“As researchers at the Laboratory of Physical Chemistry and Chemical Thermodynamics at the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology of the University of Maribor, led by Dr. Marko Jukić, and Assist. Prof. Dr. Urban Bren, Ph.D., we have decided together with the colleagues from the Chair of Physical Chemistry at the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology of the University of Ljubljana, led by Assist. Prof. Dr. Črtomir Podlipnik to launch the project COVID.SI Community Science and the fight against the Coronavirus and to add our contribution to the global efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic“ explained project researchers.
“With the help of virtual sifting through enormous libraries of chemical substances based on molecular docking – a sort of three-dimensional Tetris where we look for matching shapes and interactions – we are looking for the best inhibitors of potential therapeutic protein targets of SARS-CoV-2. The goal is to identify the lead compounds that could be turned into effective antiviral drugs against COVID-19 in the process of future optimization. The beauty of this project is that we use distributed computing that allows anyone with unused laptop or desktop PC processing power to join us in the fight against the novel Coronavirus. People’s responses pleasantly surprised us, and with their help, we have successfully docked more than half a million sets of 1,000 different substance conformations. Another bright point was Microsoft’s support as the company decided to support the COVID.SI project with a donation of Azure computing power. Everyone is invited to donate the unused computing power on their desktops or laptops by visiting https://covid.si/ and join us in the fight against COVID-19,” added researchers.
“The world must understand COVID-19 better. On this matter, we are humbled and honored to work with researchers across the globe to accelerate the search for COVID-19 cure. We are passionate about aiming our computing resources and expertise at empowering those with the most promising direction,” said Barbara Domicelj, Microsoft Slovenia CM. “I’m very pleased that excellent researchers and volunteers, working at Slovenian project COVID.SI, are among them, too. I am confident that with the state-of-the-art computing resources of our cloud platform, the path to achieving their noble goal will be faster and more efficient.”
Microsoft’s donation to the COVID.SI project is a part of Microsoft AI for Health, a new $60 million, five-year philanthropic program from Microsoft, created to empower non-profits, researchers, and organizations tackling some of the toughest challenges in global health.
Microsoft Azure represents a growing collection of cloud services for building, deploying, and managing intelligent applications and services through a global network of datacentres. It consists of more than 100 highly secure and energy-efficient facilities linked by almost 210,000 km of fiber optic and undersea cable systems – one of the largest networks on Earth. Microsoft Azure is available in 140 countries worldwide.