LANL, Delaware researchers win NSF grant to study COVID-19 structure

Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Delaware have been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to study the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, using the kinds of high-tech supercomputing tools that previously led them to new insights into other viruses that harm human health.

Juan Perilla and Jodi Hadden-Perilla, both assistant professors in UD’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, received the one-year, $200,000 grant this week through the NSF’s Rapid Response Research (RAPID) program. The NSF says RAPID proposals are used in cases of “severe urgency,” including quick responses to natural disasters. The UD researchers are collaborating with investigator Tyler Reddy, also a computational virologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who has collaborated with them on previous studies.

The researchers will use computer simulations to analyze the molecular structure of the virus that has led to the current worldwide pandemic. Working remotely, using a robust infrastructure that connects them to their lab computers and supercomputing resources, the research team will focus on using supercomputers to perform molecular dynamics (MD) simulations at the atomic level.

The NSF grant provides the research team with time on the Frontera supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Other COVID-19 researchers are also using Frontera, one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, as part of the new public-private High Performance Computing Consortium formed to combat the virus.

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