Electronic Design

7.5-Teraflop Supercomputer Finds Revolutionary Use In Genetic Research

IBM is currently building the world's largest commercial supercomputer. NuTec Sciences, an Atlanta-based life-sciences company, will use it to investigate how gene interactions cause life-threatening diseases. According to IBM, this is the fastest system ever to be installed outside the realm of government agencies.

This technology, which will rank among the 10 largest supercomputers in the world, is a 7.5-teraflop computing cluster able to process 7.5 trillion calculations/s. It will consist of 1250 IBM e-server p640s servers running the company's DB2 Universal Database. Also, it will support 2.5 terabytes of memory, 50 terabytes of online disk storage, and a high-bandwidth networking infrastructure. The system will be housed in the Atlanta headquarters of NuTec's Life Sciences division.

IBM plans to augment the system with software for Web applications, information portals, and data integration. These applications will let NuTec Sciences manage, mine, and integrate genetic data from a variety of sources. Also, NuTec will be able to share this information via the Internet with the global life-sciences community. NuTec plans to lease time on the computer to both large and small pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms. Most firms will access the system via the Internet.

The company is collaborating with the National Human Genome Research Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health. This program falls under the auspices of the Human Genome Project, which seeks to fully map human DNA. It's an enormous task, as over 35,000 unique genes have already been identified.

NuTec plans to use the IBM system to distribute patented algorithms for analyzing disease-causing gene combinations. The system's computational power will allow pharmaceutical and biotechnology researchers to study the gene combinations that generate complex diseases.

Potentially, the algorithms may help researchers enroll the right patients in clinical trials as well as predict trial outcomes. It will help develop revolutionary drugs and targeted therapies, too. The system's secondary goal is to reduce the time and lower the cost involved in genetic research.

For details, go to www.ibm.com.

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