Fujitsu's Fugaku supercomputer helping fight COVID-19 in Japan

Fujitsu is also hoping to make practical quantum computing a reality, launching three collaborative research projects with global institutions.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor


Image: Fujitsu

Japanese scientific research institute RIKEN is home to the world's top supercomputer, with Fugaku being jointly developed with Fujitsu.

Fugaku is expected to be in full operation soon, but it is being used already by researchers in Japan for various matters, one of which is the country's fight against COVID-19.

"We anticipate Fugaku to be used for a wide variety of applications, including those of high concern in the general public around medical and pharmaceuticals, disaster and environmental, energy and production ... also industries from materials to general manufacturing," RIKEN Center for Computational Science director Satoshi Matsuoka said.

"But one very important area there is how we fight against COVID-19 and we have quickly stood up this program, COVID-19 program, even as Fugaku was being built, and, in fact, we did this in less than one month."

Speaking as part of Fujitsu's digital ActivateNow conference on Tuesday night, Matsuoka said the program has been receiving "stellar results", mostly due to the computing resources available to scientists matching the entire high-performance compute capacity in Japan.

"For example, we're finding some existing drugs, drugs that have approved for other purposes like heart conditions or high blood pressure or parasites to be immensely useful against COVID-19," he said.

"So if these are proven to be effective, then we may have these antiviral drugs -- it's very cheap, very low side effect, and can be used to not only cure COVID-19 but serve as preventive drugs to be pre-administered to people at high risk."

Matsuoka said RIKEN teams are also working on mitigating COVID-19 transmission through detailed droplet analysis.

"We're finding that masks are very effective, also finding shields are effective in the workplace," he said.

He said these findings are being used to provide guidelines by industry, but also by the Japanese government.

"One of the reasons why Japan's infection rate is so low compared to other developed countries could be the result -- or at least partially -- of work being done on Fugaku."

See also: How the world's largest and fastest supercomputers are being used to understand the coronavirus

As part of its ActivateNow event, Fujitsu on Wednesday announced kicking off three quantum computing initiatives with research facilities in Japan and the Netherlands: One with RIKEN and the University of Tokyo, another with Osaka University, and the third with the Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands.

In a bid to make practical quantum computing a reality, Fujitsu said it will conduct research on a number of the associated technology layers, from the device level to control systems, architecture, and algorithms.

The company is aiming to achieve comprehensive and efficient advances in quantum computing by applying quantum computing to various fields currently facing problems that it said are extremely difficult to solve.

The first project will see Fujitsu, RIKEN, and the University of Tokyo conduct research on superconducting quantum computers.

"Through a comprehensive undertaking of quantum computing systems covering quantum devices, and electronic control units and software, Fujitsu aims to bring about computer systems that can work in a complementarily fashion with conventional computers," Fujitsu said in a statement.

Fujitsu will conduct fundamental research and development of quantum computers using diamond-based spin qubits with TU Delft, and research and development of quantum algorithms will be conducted with the Graduate School of Engineering Science at Osaka University.

Elsewhere, Fujitsu announced Monozukuri, a suite of solutions aimed at accelerating digital transformation in manufacturing.


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