To help the world better prepare for the next pandemic, IBM is partnering with the University of Oxford’s Pandemic Sciences Institute (PSI), a new body launched this week.
While COVID-19 is finally easing its grip on the world, a new crisis may arrive at any time. During this latest pandemic, science and technology have played an essential role — and will always be at the forefront of efforts to keep the world safe.
The PSI will aim to unite disciplines to address complex problems and to develop technologies that can respond to pandemic threats, ultimately increasing global access to essential science capabilities and interventions. The mission of the PSI is strongly aligned to our accelerated discovery agenda and builds upon the same model of innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration that delivered critical breakthroughs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, IBM Research has been working closely with partners worldwide. We’ve been using our technology and expertise to help organizations accelerate the process of discovery and enable scientific and medical communities to develop treatments and enhance resilience. For example, during the very first wave of the pandemic, we helped to launch the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium. This international body coordinated and deployed an unprecedented level of computing power globally to enable research communities to better understand COVID-19, its treatments and potential cures.
An industry-academic alliance
Broadly, IBM’s research programs are focussed on making technology vastly more powerful and accessible. We are doing this by driving the convergence of AI, hybrid cloud, high-performance computing and quantum computation. This unique period of technology convergence is the catalyst for accelerated discovery where, for example, hypotheses can be formulated and tested at unprecedented scale and speed, leading to faster transformative advances.
The new partnership between Oxford and IBM in the PSI forms a flagship industry-academic alliance. It is also an internationally visible showcase for accelerated discovery and technology convergence in an area of profound scientific challenge, urgency and long-term global significance. This establishes IBM as a founding technology partner in the Centre and builds upon established collaborations between IBM Research and the University of Oxford, which include research programs in the life sciences, quantum simulations, AI and climate science.
These collaborations include more than 10 University departments and six IBM Research laboratories. For the last two years, we have, for example, been developing and validating robust generative AI methods able to create novel peptides, and drug candidates. We have applied these methodologies to design and test novel antibiotics and drug-like molecule candidates for COVID-19 targets. These programs will be among the first to expand through our involvement in the PSI.
The partnership with the PSI will be supported by investments in senior research Discovery Fellowships, graduate student positions, and access to technology. These Discovery Fellows will greatly expand our current collaborations.
Based in Oxford, they will work closely with senior investigators at IBM Research in areas such as molecular discovery. They will be in a unique interdisciplinary research environment where they will combine powerful generative AI techniques with physical modelling at the molecular scale while also drawing upon extensive experimental programs in life sciences and structural biology for validation.