Nvidia’s new supercomputer Cambridge-1 aims to accelerate U.K. healthcare research with AI and simulation

By Neil Leavitt

Santa Clara, California-based Nvidia Corporation recently launched Cambridge-1—the United Kingdom’s most powerful supercomputer—to fully harness the capabilities of AI and simulation. The move is expected to accelerate the digital biology revolution, targeting diseases and propelling the life sciences industry in exciting new directions.

Cambridge-1 aims to accelerate U.K. healthcare research with AI and simulation. (Source: Nvidia)

Cambridge-1 will reside at Kao Data, in the heart of U.K.’s Innovation Corridor, between London and Cambridge. Nvidia cites the concentration of leading healthcare companies in the U.K. as a primary reason for building Cambridge-1 at Kao Data. Not surprisingly, AstraZeneca, GSK, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London, and Oxford Nanopore have already announced their intent to employ the supercomputer for research.

Dedicated to advancing healthcare, Cambridge-1 represents a $100 million investment by Nvidia in developing a deeper understanding of brain diseases like dementia. Researchers will finally be able to harness AI’s promise to design new drugs and zero in on disease-causing variations in human genomes.

Unlocking clues to diseases and treatments

Cambridge-1 unites decades of Nvidia’s work in accelerated computing, AI, and life sciences, where Nvidia Clara and AI frameworks are optimized to take advantage of the entire system for large-scale research. An Nvidia DGX SuperPOD supercomputing cluster, it ranks among the world’s top 50 fastest computers and is powered by 100% renewable energy.

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

A forerunner in cloud-native supercomputing, Cambridge-1 will allow diverse external users to leverage the same system and focus on four key areas:

  • Joint industry research – Solving large-scale healthcare and data-science problems that otherwise could not be tackled due to their size, resulting in improved patient outcomes, increased success rates, and decreased overall healthcare costs.
  • University-granted compute time – Access to Nvidia, GPU time will be donated as a resource to specific studies to contribute to the hunt for cures.
  • Support AI startups – Nvidia will provide opportunities to learn, and it will collaborate with startups to nurture the next generation and provide early access to AI tools.
  • Educate future AI practitioners – The system will serve as a destination for world-class researchers and provide hands-on experiences to the next generation.

Collaborating with AstraZeneca for faster drug discoveries

Cambridge-1 builds on the U.K.’s status as a global leader in life sciences, technology, and AI by providing advanced infrastructure for current and future generations to carry out groundbreaking research within the country. Nvidia is collaborating with AstraZeneca to fuel faster drug discoveries, creating a transformer-based generative AI model for chemical structures. Transformer-based neural network architectures, which have become available only in the last several years, allow researchers to leverage massive datasets using self-supervised training methods, avoiding the need for manually labeled examples during pre-training.

Kimberly Powell, vice president of healthcare at Nvidia, said that AstraZeneca, GSK, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London, and Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) are using the supercomputer to develop a deeper understanding of brain diseases like dementia. Cambridge-1 will leverage the full power of AI to design new drugs, and improve the accuracy of finding disease-causing variations in human genomes.

“This is an Nvidia industrial supercomputer owned and operated by Nvidia, and it’s the first one that we’re opening up to public use,” Powell said. “We believe that there is a massive opportunity in the area of health as all the stars have aligned. We’ve been working on simulations for 15 years and AI is having a rapid amount of progress. We know how to build these computers and use them to their maximum capacity better than anyone in the world. And some of the world’s best researchers are in health care.”