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One Year of Impact: AMD COVID-19 HPC Fund

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By Alan Lee, Corporate VP, Head of Research and Advanced Development

Last spring, the world was still coming to terms with the full scope and severity of COVID-19. Recognizing the gravity of the problem, Dr. Lisa Su, our CEO, set us on a course to leverage AMD’s expertise in high performance computing (HPC) by supporting esteemed laboratories and institutions across the globe to find solutions.

We knew that researchers would be on the front lines of helping the world recover from this major crisis, and they would be facing two major challenges where AMD could help. First, skills from multiple fields and disciplines would be required to develop solutions for such a large-scale problem, and cross-collaboration on a massive project can be complex and difficult. Second, different types of research often require different types of computations. Sometimes a spectrum of compute capabilities are needed across multiple workloads, and more and more often a single application has varying attributes where a “one size fits all” approach is suboptimal. This is where AMD’s modular and heterogeneous technologies come into play. We have both world-class CPUs and GPUs that can be brought to bear on problems ranging from traditional modeling, advanced data science, cutting-edge machine learning, and high-resolution visualization. Furthermore, our commitment to open-source solutions facilitates collaborative environments.

AMD was uniquely suited to help the world tackle this momentous challenge, and it was Lisa’s vision that led us to announce the AMD COVID-19 HPC fund one year ago today. The goal of the fund was to provide research institutions with computing resources to accelerate medical research to deepen our understanding of COVID-19, find solutions, and improve our abilities to respond to future potential global health threats.

One year later, as I reflect on the progress that has been made, I am proud that the AMD COVID-19 HPC Fund has supported a diversity of explorations for the public good. We have undergraduate programmers working hand-in-hand with tenured faculty in virology. We have applied mathematicians partnering with epidemiologists and social workers to collaborate on human solutions. The fund, which has grown to $20M in total market value, is enabling research institutions across seven countries to deliver valuable insights to both the local and global community. With 12 petaflops of total supercomputing capacity now awarded, the combined compute capacity donated through the AMD COVID-19 HPC Fund would rank among the fastest supercomputers in the world.

Across our 23 fund recipients, there is an immense breadth of research taking place, solving problems including diagnostics, testing, vaccines, treatments, molecular dynamics, epidemiology, public health, logistics, and even emotional support. Stanford University School of Medicine researchers are supporting public policy and decision making by using simulation modeling to provide short-term epidemic forecasts, identify feasible vaccine roll-out policies that promote health equity and help protect individuals in high-risk settings. Researchers are also looking ahead to future progress enabled by computing; the University of Vermont and MIT are working together to train students with computing skills who can facilitate research on high performance computing systems.

AMD has supported fund recipients at every stage of the process, from identifying their compute needs and providing training, to facilitating information sharing between recipients and opportunities, to engaging with research scientists and engineers on hardware and software features that will help them in the future.

While we are honored to have played a part in this progress, the road does not end here. We recognize the importance of continued innovation and the need to support leading institutions that are finding solutions to the world’s toughest problems. AMD is organizing research forums and friendly competitions to spur collaboration, foster innovation, and develop solutions to resolve this pandemic and find new ways to apply high performance computing to prevent future global health crises.

AMD will continue to support the AMD COVID-19 HPC Fund recipients and do our part to encourage and develop innovations that benefit the world. By harnessing the power of compute to some of the brightest minds in science, we can save lives.