2020.05.08 Kobe biomedical cluster mobilised in fight against COVID-19
With over 370 members and partners, Japan’s largest biocluster the Kobe Biomedical Innovation Cluster (KBIC) is being mobilised in the fight against COVID-19. RIKEN, part of KBIC and one of Japan’s foremost scientific research institutions, along with the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), recently announced that its supercomputer Fugaku, located at RIKEN’s Kobe campus, will be made available free of charge to researchers looking into ways to combat COVID-19.
Fugaku, set to be the most powerful supercomputer in the world, was originally scheduled to go into full use in 2021. However, given the need for a rapid response to the emerging challenges of COVID-19, a decision was made to make its incredible computing power available early to researchers and scientists looking specifically at ways in which to combat the novel coronavirus. With regards to the early availability of Fugaku, RIKEN president Satoshi Matsuoka stated that it would be used to “…accelerate the scientific process of diagnosis, treatment, as well as general prevention of infection spread, to contribute to the early termination of the pandemic.”
Riken is currently accepting research applications for research projects and already has several ongoing projects that are set make use of Fugaku’s computing power such as the ‘Prediction and Countermeasure for Virus Droplet Infection Under the Indoor Environment’ research project, which is set to be the largest and most accurate virus droplet simulation ever conducted. It is hoped that any positive results yielded from research conducted using Fugaku will be shared widely in and outside of Japan.
The Foundation for Biomedical Research and Innovation at Kobe (FBRI) also recently announced a 10 million yen fund to expand its existing system of research and development grants for Kobe based universities, research institutes, and private companies to include organisations from outside the city that are doing collaborative research with organisations located in Kobe. The grant aims to support research that can address current issues relating to COVID-19 such as drug discovery and testing, as well as the establishment of rapid and reliable remote diagnosis capabilities by promoting collaboration between education, research and private organisations. The FBRI hopes the research and results from broader collaboration will transcend the organisations directly involved and provide practical and tangible benefits to society.