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Nvidia makes its GPU-powered genome sequencing tool available free to those studying COVID-19

Darrell Etherington

Nvidia is making its Parabricks tool available for free for 90 days (with the possibility of extension, depending on needs) to any researcher currently working on any effort to combat the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic and spread of COVID-19. The tool is a GPU-accelerated genome analysis toolkit, which leveraged graphics processing power to take a process that previously took days, but that through its use can be accomplished in just a matter of hours.

Researchers will still need access to Nvidia GPUs for running the Parabricks genetic sequencing suite, but they won't have to pay anything for the privilege of running the software. This is a big advantage for anyone studying the new coronavirus or the patients who have contracted the illness. The GPU-maker is also providing links to different cloud-based GPU service providers to lower that barrier to entry, as well.

We've cut down drastically on genomic sequencing times in the past few years, but they still require a massive amount of computing hardware, and Parabricks, which was acquired by Nvidia late last year, has developed technology that makes it possible to sequence an entire human genome in less than an hour -- and that's using a single server, not an entire server farm.

Speed is of the essence when it comes to every aspect of the continued effort to fight the spread of the virus, and the severe respiratory illness that it can cause. One of the biggest challenges that scientists and researchers working on building potential drug therapies and vaccines for the novel coronavirus face is lack of solid, reliable information. The more sequencing that can be done to understand, identify and verify characteristics of the genetic makeup of both the virus itself and patients who contract it (both during and post-infection), the quicker everyone will be able to move on to potential treatments and immunotherapies.