Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Accelerating Cancer Drug Discovery

Lawrence Livermore, the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) recently launched a consortium to speed the discovery of effective cancer therapies. Known as Accelerating Therapeutics for Opportunities in Medicine (ATOM), the consortium strives to reduce the time from identified drug target to clinical candidate from approximately 6 years to 12 months.

To achieve this goal, ATOM will develop, test, and validate a multidisciplinary approach to drug discovery in which supercomputing simulations, data science, artificial intelligence, and other cutting-edge know-how are highly integrated into a single drug discovery platform that can ultimately be shared with the entire drug development community. The team will combine chemical and biological screening 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. Livermore will contribute its supercomputing capabilities, including the next-generation system Sierra, while FNLCR will contribute scientific expertise in precision oncology, computational chemistry, and cancer biology, as well as support for the open sharing of data sets and predictive modeling and simulation tools. UCSF will provide its expertise in drug discovery and medicine to improve the lives of patients.

In addition to accelerating cancer drug discovery, ATOM will drive technologies vital to the core missions of the Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration. Livermore Director William Goldstein says, “ATOM will help to strengthen U.S. leadership in high-performance computing and, by speeding the discovery of therapeutics, contribute to biosecurity.”
Contact: Jim Brase (925) 422-6992 (

Mineral Waters Earth’s Mantle

The first observation of a super-hydrated phase of the clay mineral kaolinite (see image at right) could improve understanding of processes that lead to volcanism and affect earthquakes. Lawrence Livermore scientist Hyunchae Cynn and colleagues from Yonsei University in the Republic of Korea, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron in Germany, the Carnegie Institution for Science, George Washington University, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and the University of South Carolina collaborated to re-create subduction zones, where conditions promote formation of the super-hydrated phase of kaolinite. The findings were published online in the November 20, 2017, edition of Nature Geoscience.

Subduction zones occur where an oceanic plate dives under the continental crust and plunges into Earth’s mantle. Water thereby enters the Earth trapped in minerals of the oceanic crust or overlaying sediments, and these minerals slowly sink deeper into the mantle over millions of years. Eventually, the minerals become unstable and transform into new compounds, releasing water that decreases the melting temperature of the mantle rock. “When the mantle rocks melt, magma is generated, leading to volcanic activity when the magma rises to the surface,” says Yongjae Lee from Yonsei University, who led the study.

By re-creating subduction zones in the laboratory, scientists are able to use high-pressure and high-temperature measurements to observe these processes more closely and gain insight into the formation of important oceanic minerals, such as super-hydrated kaolinite. The formation and breakdown of this mineral bears important information about the processes that occur in subduction zones and could help scientists better understand geochemical processes, such as volcanism, in these zones.
Contact: Hyunchae Cynn (925) 422-3432 (

Global Impact of Arctic Sea Ice Loss

A new study by Ivana Cvijanovic and colleagues from Lawrence Livermore and the University of California at Berkeley shows that substantial loss of Arctic sea ice could have significant worldwide impact, including affecting the amount of precipitation in California. The research appears in the December 5, 2017, edition of Nature Communications.

The team found that sea ice changes can alter convection over the tropical Pacific, thereby driving the formation of an atmospheric ridge in the North Pacific. A phenomenon that played a central role in the 2012–2016 California drought, the atmospheric ridge is known for steering precipitation-rich storms northward, away from California. Although the study does not attribute the 2012–2016 California drought to Arctic sea ice loss, simulations indicate that the sea ice–driven precipitation changes track global rainfall patterns observed during that drought, suggesting that the loss of Arctic sea ice could have played a role.

“The recent California drought appears to be a good illustration of what a sea ice–driven precipitation decline could look like,” says Cvijanovic. Several studies suggest that recent Californian droughts have a human-made component involving increased temperatures, with the likelihood of such warming-enhanced droughts expected to increase in the future. Cvijanovic says, “Although more research is needed, we should be aware that an increasing number of studies, including this one, suggest that the loss of Arctic sea ice cover is not only a problem for remote Arctic communities but could also affect millions of people worldwide.”
Contact: Ivana Cvijanovic (925) 424-5263 (