Nvidia Corp. has built a U.K. supercomputer for scientists and drug makers that will allow researchers to model diseases, discover new medicines and advance knowledge of the human genome.
The Cambridge-1 will be the country’s most powerful and one of the top 50 supercomputers worldwide. It was developed in partnership with AstraZeneca Plc and GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Nvidia said in a statement on Wednesday.
Other founding members include Guy’s Hospital and St Thomas’ Hospital trust, part of the U.K.’s National Health Service, as well as King’s College London.
“Through this partnership, we will be able to use a scale of computational power that is unprecedented in health-care research,” said Sebastien Ourselin, head of the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences at King’s College London. “It will be truly transformational for the health and treatment of patients.”
Oxford Nanopore, a DNA sequencing startup that’s preparing to debut on the London Stock Exchange will also get access to Cambridge-1, allowing it to improve its artificial intelligence algorithms in hours instead of days, the startup said in the statement.
Rather than a single unit, the Cambridge-1 is made up of several modules working together. This parallel processing lets the computer carry out tasks simultaneously, allowing for greater speeds. It was also faster to build, coming together in about a quarter of the time it takes to construct similar machines.
The supercomputer has a computing capability of more than 400 petaflops. That’s close to the world’s fastest, the Fugaku machine in Japan. Top500, which publishes a twice-yearly list of the fastest supercomputers, included the Cambridge-1 at No. 41 on its most recent ranking, published at the end of June.
The speed and capabilities that supercomputers offer scientists are crucial as they try to make sense of unprecedented amounts of data. “We accumulated more data in one quarter in 2020 than in the last 300 years,” said Kim Branson, GSK’s senior vice president and global head of AI-ML.
The machine, which cost $100 million to build, was announced in October, a month after Nvidia launched a $40 billion bid for semiconductor designer Arm Ltd. Arm’s technology is ubiquitous in smartphones and other consumer electronics, making the deal controversial among Nvidia’s competitors, who rely on the designs. The U.K. has also expressed concerns that selling Arm, which is currently owned by Softbank Group Corp., has national security implications and the country’s competition authority is due to submit a report at the end of the month.
Nvidia said it’s already developing another supercomputer, which is to be made with Arm technology.
The Cambridge-1 will be kept at a site run by Kao Data Campus just outside London and about 40 miles south of its namesake city.
King’s College and London hospital group Guy’s and St Thomas’ will use the new AI capability to learn from MRI scans and then generate synthetic brain images, creating models to help scientists better understand diseases such as dementia, stroke, brain cancer and multiple sclerosis. That could allow for earlier diagnosis and treatment, the university and teaching hospital said.
Nvidia said it would work with its partners to share the insights gained with the wider scientific community. For example, AstraZeneca will open up one of its projects, an AI-based model for chemical structures to help with drug discovery, to other scientists.
“Cambridge-1 will empower world-leading researchers in business and academia with the ability to perform their life’s work on the U.K.’s most powerful supercomputer, unlocking clues to disease and treatments at a scale and speed previously impossible in the U.K.,” said Jensen Huang, founder and chief executive officer of Nvidia, in a statement.