NVIDIA CEO Unveils ‘First Big Bet’ on Digital Biology Revolution with UK-Based Cambridge-1

by Craig Rhodes

Introducing NVIDIA’s “first big bet” on the digital biology revolution, NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang Wednesday unveiled Cambridge-1, a $100 million investment that promises to harness partnerships across the U.K. for breakthroughs with a “global impact.”

The U.K.’s most powerful supercomputer, Cambridge-1 will advance research at AstraZeneca, GSK, King’s College London, Oxford Nanopore, and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

As part of Wednesday’s inauguration event, Cambridge-1’s founding partners outlined their plans to use Cambridge-1 to tackle new healthcare challenges during a panel discussion.

“We’re at the beginning of the digital biology revolution, and to do this work scientists need a powerful rocket for their journey,” Huang said. “Cambridge-1 brings together decades of our work in accelerated computing, AI and life sciences into a single computing center.”

Cambridge-1 is named for the birthplace of genomics, Huang explained during the virtual event. Cambridge is also the site of Arm’s headquarters, which NVIDIA agreed to acquire last year, and that Huang hopes to make NVIDIA’s “future home in the U.K.”

‘Super-Exponential’ Growth

NVIDIA’s Turing GPU architecture — named for Cambridge computing pioneer Alan Turing — introduced a computer architecture that makes artificial intelligence a central method of computation, Huang said. Now life sciences are poised to benefit from the “super-exponential” growth in computing capabilities unleashed by new AI computing techniques.

The results are already “staggering,” Huang explained, enabling researchers using the latest NVIDIA Ampere architecture GPUs to simulate 300 million atoms for 100,000 nanoseconds, a scale 10 millionfold larger than what was possible just 15 years ago.

Amidst a global pandemic, bringing genomics and computing breakthroughs together is more important than ever, Huang explained. “The pandemic has made the need to accelerate healthcare a paramount social and economic imperative,” he said. “We need these two superpowers together now.”

Built Fast, Runs Fast

NVIDIA’s U.K. partners will be able to put the technologies powering Cambridge-1 to work with extraordinary speed. Cambridge-1 took just 20 weeks to build, rather than the two years it takes to build most supercomputers of its scale.

“From inception it was clear that Cambridge-1 was a pioneering deployment that would reimagine how quickly supercomputers can be designed and brought online,” said Lee Myall, CEO of Kao Data, NVIDIA’s co-location partner for Cambridge-1.

Cambridge-1 is ranked the 12th fastest in Europe and among the 50 fastest in the world, according to the latest TOP500 list of world’s fastest computers. It delivers more than 400 petaflops of AI performance and eight petaflops of Linpack performance.

Based on the NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD reference architecture, the system packs 80 NVIDIA DGX A100 systems, integrating NVIDIA A100 Tensor Core GPUs, BlueField-2 DPUs and NVIDIA HDR InfiniBand networking.

UK Expertise, Global Impact

Cambridge-1 gives NVIDIA a platform to work with world-class U.K. universities, life sciences companies, healthcare providers and over a thousand startups, Huang explained.

As part of Wednesday’s event, key Cambridge-1 partners gathered to talk about the breakthroughs they’re pursuing with the new machine.

AstraZeneca uses Cambridge-1 to train a model named MegaMolBART. With it, the pharmaceutical giant can borrow techniques from natural language processing to help discover new drugs, explained Lindsay Edwards, vice president of Data Science and AI, Respiratory and Immunology, BioPharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca.

In addition, NVIDIA works with many public and private sector healthcare organizations in the U.K., including the NHS, UK Biobank, Genomics England, and more than 80 U.K. healthcare startups involved in NVIDIA Inception.

King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust are using Cambridge-1 to teach AI models to generate images of synthetic brains, trained using tens of thousands of MRI brain scans across various ages and diseases.

With enough medical imagery of a specific disease, we can “start to understand the evolution or the progression of a disease,” said Sebastian Ourselin, head of the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences at King’s College London.

Oxford Nanopore, a member of the NVIDIA Inception startup accelerator program, uses innovative sensors and AI algorithms running on NVIDIA GPU supercomputers to digitize DNA into sequences of billions of characters.

Oxford Nanopore’s technology helped to characterize the coronavirus genome. Now it’s being used to do rapid testing and identify variants of the virus, making the U.K. a leader in this area.

‘Full Circle’

Huang explained that NVIDIA’s work with these world-class organizations at Cambridge brings NVIDIA “full circle.” Cambridge-1 brings NVIDIA back to where much of modern computing and life sciences began. And to where so much talent now resides.

“But the impact will be global, benefiting millions of people around the world,” Huang said. “Cambridge-1, we have a world to save — make it so.”

To watch a video of the full event, visit our Cambridge-1 website.