Schrödinger, Google Cloud to supply massively parallel computing efforts to global COVID-19 initiative

Schrödinger previously linked up with Google Cloud in early March, with plans to use thousands of processors to power its molecule modeling platform. (UCSF)

Digital molecule designer Schrödinger is expanding its efforts against the novel coronavirus, using its partnership with Google’s cloud computing division to screen new potential antivirals as part of a global Big Pharma collaboration.

For its part in the COVID-19 initiative—which also includes Takeda, Novartis, Gilead and WuXi AppTec—Schrödinger plans to virtually evaluate billions of small molecules each week in a hunt for ones that may match up with different protein targets. 

Google Cloud is making a new donation of its massively parallel computing resources to the project, which will total about 16 million hours—or 1,826 years—of crunching calculations for free-energy assessments and other physics-based modeling applications. 

With thousands of processors running at once, Schrödinger hopes to shave months to years off a more traditional drug discovery effort. Following the discovery phase, the initiative’s partners will carry the lead molecules through optimization, synthesis and clinical testing.

“Like all the partners in this alliance, we understand the enormous public health challenge presented by COVID-19, and we’re proud to be contributing our compute power to accelerate the identification of new potential therapeutics in the fight against the virus,” said Joe Corkery, Google Cloud’s director of product management for healthcare.

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Schrödinger previously linked up with Google Cloud in early March with plans to use thousands of processors to power its molecule modeling platform. The company had planned to first focus on small-molecule inhibitors for targets in DNA damage response pathways and related cancers, with preclinical studies launching in the first half of next year.

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“Google Cloud has been a great technology partner to us as we push the limits of computational modeling in our partnered and internal drug discovery programs to identify high-quality molecules more rapidly and at lower cost than traditional methods,” said Schrödinger Chief Technology Officer Pat Lorton. 

“We’re delighted to be able to extend that bold approach to chemical exploration to the COVID-19 project, which is so important to global public health,” Lorton added. “Discovering high-quality novel molecules in silico requires extensive computing power, and Google Cloud’s GPU credits are crucial to that work.”