$100m Nvidia supercomputer launched in UK to drive health research

7 Jul 2021

The Cambridge-1 supercomputing cluster. Image: NVIDIA

Powered by renewable energy, Nvidia’s Cambridge-1 supercomputer is aiming to advance healthcare using AI and simulation.

Nvidia has launched Cambridge-1, a supercomputer that the tech company is describing as the UK’s most powerful one yet.

Plans for the supercomputer were revealed late last year, with the idea of it being used to advance research in healthcare.

Now, Nvidia is making the resource available for commercial and academic research, with a number of projects already in the works. Initial research partners include AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, King’s College London, and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

‘The discoveries developed on Cambridge-1 will take shape in the UK, but the impact will be global’

Based in Cambridge and powered solely by renewable energy, the supercomputer is dedicated to advancing healthcare using AI and simulation.

While it represents a $100m investment, Nvidia cited a report estimating a potential value returned of roughly $825m over the next 10 years.

“Cambridge-1 will empower world-leading researchers in business and academia with the ability to perform their life’s work on the UK’s most powerful supercomputer, unlocking clues to disease and treatments at a scale and speed previously impossible in the UK,” said Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia.

“The discoveries developed on Cambridge-1 will take shape in the UK, but the impact will be global, driving groundbreaking research that has the potential to benefit millions around the world.”

AstraZeneca’s neural network

One Nvidia collaboration is with AstraZeneca to fuel faster drug discoveries using a transformer-based generative AI model for chemical structures.

Transformer-based neural network architectures allow researchers to leverage enormous datasets by using self-supervised training methods. This avoids the need for manually labeled examples during pre-training.

By using one of Nvidia’s frameworks to enable scaled-out training on the supercomputer infrastructure, AstraZeneca will predict chemical reactions and molecular optimisation to develop new drugs.

This open-source model will also be available to researchers and developers through Nvidia’s software catalog.

NHS and KCL’s synthetic brains

Meanwhile, King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust are using Cambridge-1 to teach AI models to generate synthetic brain images.

By inputting tens of thousands of existing MRI brain scans from different participants, the collaboration will use these synthetic models to better understand a variety of diseases including dementia and multiple sclerosis.

Using the supercomputer to generate infinite amounts of synthetic images with defined characteristics, the researchers hope for advances in diagnosis and treatment.

“Through this partnership, we will be able to use a scale of computational power that is unprecedented in healthcare research,” said Prof Sebastien Ourselin, head of the School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences at King’s College London.

“It will be truly transformational for the health and treatment of patients.”

The inauguration of the computer will be streamed on YouTube today (7 July) from 2pm IST.

Sam Cox was a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news