Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory


As a world leader in high-performance computing, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is partnering with other national laboratories, industry and academia in an unprecedented effort aimed at dramatically accelerating the discovery of effective cancer therapies. The goal of this consortium - Accelerating Therapeutics for Opportunities in Medicine (ATOM) - is to reduce the time from an identified drug target to clinical candidate from approximately six years to just one year.

LLNL, along with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the National Cancer Institute's Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR), and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) seek to create an open and sharable platform that integrates high-performance computing, shared biological data from public and industry sources, and emerging biotechnologies to transform cancer drug discovery from a time-consuming, sequential, and high-risk process into an approach that is rapid, integrated, and with better patient outcomes -- using supercomputers to pretest many molecules simultaneously for safety and efficacy.

ATOM will combine data provided by GSK with publicly available data, and that of future consortium members, to generate new dynamic models that can better predict how molecules will behave in the body compared to current practices. In this effort, LLNL will contribute its best-in-class supercomputers, including its next-generation system Sierra, as well as its expertise and innovative approaches to modeling and simulation, cognitive computing, machine learning, and algorithm development.

By tackling the ambitious challenge of cancer therapies, it is hoped that ATOM will drive technologies vital to the core missions of the Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). "ATOM is a novel public-private partnership that draws on the lab's unique capabilities to create a paradigm change in drug development," said LLNL Director Bill Goldstein. "It will help to strengthen U.S. leadership in high-performance computing, and, by speeding the discovery of therapeutics, contribute to biosecurity."

The consortium stemmed from the Cancer Moonshot initiative and is funded in part by the 21st Century Cures Act passed by Congress in 2016, as well as contributions from partner organizations. It is actively seeking additional partnerships with qualified pharma, biotech, technology, academic, government, and other organizations.