Nvidia makes powerful genome sequencing tool free to COVID-19 researchers

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Nvidia's gene sequencing tool is now free to COVID-19 researchers.
Image: Nvidia

In the face of the growing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a joint effort between governments, companies, and citizens is needed. Nvidia, a global leader in the GPU industry, is modeling this behavior. It recently announced that it is temporarily making its Parabricks genome sequencing tool free to COVID-19 researchers.

The powerful software harnesses graphics processing power to make genomic sequencing a task that takes just hours instead of days. As researchers scramble to find unique ways to attack the new coronavirus, such processing power may prove vital.

Acting Selflessly

Genomic sequencing is one of the most computationally complex tasks that exists today. Over the last few years, companies like Nvidia have contributed to innovations that have drastically reduced the time it takes to complete sequences. However, doing so still requires powerful hardware and software.

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That’s exactly the category that Nvidia’s Parabricks tool falls into. It helps researchers by providing “GPU-accelerated genomic analysis” that is customizable to the project at hand.

Starting immediately, Nvidia is making the tool free to anyone currently working to stop the spread of COVID-19. Parabricks will be available free of charge for at least 90 days to those who qualify. However, that period could be extended if the virus continues to spread.

Anyone from independent researchers to large corporations will be able to access the tool and use it to analyze the new coronavirus.

It is worth noting that researchers will still need access to a machine equipped with Nvidia GPUs to run the software suite. That isn’t because Nvidia still wants to make money, but because Parabricks only runs on its hardware. Those who already have the right equipment, however, will be able to access the tool without a problem.

For researchers that don’t have Nvidia hardware, there’s still hope. The company is offering links to several cloud-based GPU service providers. This helps enable researchers to carry out their work without the need to buy high-end computing gear.

Speeding Up the Process

In the fight against COVID-19, speed is all-important. Waiting around for the results of a genomic sequence of a new strain of the virus simply isn’t practical. Fortunately, Parabricks means that researchers don’t have to sit on their hands.

The tool is capable of sequencing the entire human genome in under in an hour. Considering that the new coronavirus has a far smaller genome, Parabricks should help researchers crunch through their analysis in no time.

Currently, a lack of solid data is the biggest barrier to finding a treatment or vaccine for the novel coronavirus. If researchers are able to utilize powerful tools like Parabricks, that could soon change.

Indeed, Nvidia’s contribution of free access to the sequencing software could play a key role in the discovery of a COVID-19 treatment or novel coronavirus vaccine. As research continues to progress, it will be interesting to see how researchers are able to harness the power of Parabricks to enhance their work.

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