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 drug discovery research, 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