Health Life

GCS centres support research to mitigate impact of COVID-19 pandemic

Coveney and his team are using SuperMUC-NG at LRZ to run binding affinity calculations to help find drug candidates to treat COVID-19. Credit: LRZ.

In December 2019, the world learned of a new and deadly pathogen. News coming out of Wuhan, China confirmed public health experts’ worst fears—a novel coronavirus appeared to have jumped from animals to humans. It was extremely contagious, and its penchant for hospitalising and killing vulnerable individuals has led to sweeping and indefinite changes to daily life around the globe.

Molecular biologists, chemists, and epidemiologists responded quickly in a race to combat the pandemic. As the full extent of the threat became clear in early March, the Gauss Centre for Supercomputing (GCS) joined the effort, announcing that it would fast-track applications for computing time aimed at stopping the spread of the virus or developing new treatments. Since then, GCS has supported roughly a dozen projects focused on epidemiological and , and remains committed to supporting scientists around the globe who are working tirelessly to combat the world’s worst pandemic in at least a generation.

Coronaviruses are a broad class of virus that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) illness that first appeared in humans at the turn of the century. The pandemic coursing across the world over the last 6 months is also a coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, which causes the illness ‘coronavirus disease 2019’ (COVID-19). As of May, 2020, the world has no proven course of treatment, and promising vaccine candidates are just beginning human trials.

Coronavirus spreads when droplets of infected individuals’ saliva are transmitted by coughing, sneezing, or speaking to other individuals, who absorb them through the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth. Although evidence is not conclusive, the virus might

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Embracing autism diagnosis helps family take charge

Luca is in fifth grade. He loves playing video games, building things, and learning about space. He can tell you the name of all of the planets and every space shuttle. Luca also has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism for short.

Luca’s mom, Tracy Sekhon, says autism is something that makes Luca shine—not something that holds him back. His diagnosis journey started back in 2010, when he was just 18 months old. Tracy and her husband noticed that Luca was having some developmental issues.

“Not only did he stop progressing, but he started going backwards. He had started making sounds that weren’t appropriate to what he was seeing,” Tracy says.

For instance, he called his dad “bye-bye” instead of “da-da.”

At first, Luca’s parents thought it was a problem with his hearing. It turned out he did, in fact, have a hearing issue. But after he had surgery to resolve it and then received speech therapy, some things were still not right. For instance, he wasn’t responding to noises like he had previously. He also started banging his head and wouldn’t respond unless someone was in front of him, Tracy recalls.

Listening to your gut

After visiting Luca’s pediatrician, who told Tracy that this behavior was probably related to Luca’s hearing impairment, she still wasn’t convinced. Tracy and her husband did lots of research, and Tracy went back to her pediatrician. She asked for a referral to a specialist who could tell her for sure if something else was affecting her baby.

“My mommy gut was telling me there’s something more going on with my son,” Tracy says.

Their pediatrician recommended the University of California San Diego’s (UCSD) Autism Center of Excellence in La Jolla, California, which turned out to be close to Tracy’s home in San Diego. The