IBM Supercomputer Simulates Common Cold Virus

For humans, few things are as ubiquitous as the common cold. We catch it more than any other infectious disease and it’s been with us as about as long as we’ve existed. But while there isn’t a cure, our technology is constantly improving, and now in our corner we have Australia’s fastest supercomputer helping to work out a solution.

The IBM Blue Gene/Q will simulate the motion of the human rhinovirus–the most prevalent cause of the cold–in 3D. The simulation is being built on information gleaned from a new antiviral drug developed by Melbourne company Biota Holdings LTD, to be used specifically for those at high-risk of rhinovirus complications. Researchers know the drug and its cousins work by surrounding the shell of the virus, or capsid, but the details are murky. This could help shine some light and maybe even help in developing better medications.

Before this, simulations were run on only parts of a virus, or on a much smaller scale. IBM Blue Gene/Q’s computing power could help to how drugs and viruses interact on a molecular level we haven’t seen before. But just the fact that it takes this level of computing to help understand what we’re up against is a testament to how tough the common cold is to beat.