IBM to deliver 7.5 Tflop/s supercomputer to NuTec Sciences for gene research

Armonk 18 December 2000IBM and NuTec Sciences Inc. are building the largest commercial supercomputer in the world, which NuTec's Life Sciences Division will use to investigate how genes interact in the human body to cause life-threatening diseases. Once completed, the 7.5-teraflop computing cluster could rank among the top 10 of the world's 500 largest supercomputers, making it the fastest system installed outside a government agency.


The system's massive computational power will enable pharmaceutical and biotechnology researchers to study gene combinations behind complex and often fatal diseases like diabetes, heart conditions and strokes, as well as prostate and breast cancers.

"The NuTec Sciences supercomputing centre will be a model for using information technology to advance medical research", commented Dr. Caroline Kovac, vice president, IBM Life Sciences. "NuTec Sciences needed a partner with both e-business and life sciences expertise, as well as leading data integration software and a highly scalable system for enormous amounts of complex genetic data. Given those requirements, IBM was the logical choice."

The supercomputing cluster will consist of 1,250 IBM eServer p640 devices running IBM's DB2 Universal Database, which is supported by 2.5 terabytes of memory, 50 terabytes of on-line disk storage as well as a high-bandwidth networking infrastructure. State-of-the-art IBM software for Web application serving, information portals, and data integration will augment the system. This will allow NuTec Sciences to manage, mine, and integrate genetic data from a wide variety of sources, and share this information via the Internet with the global life sciences community.

In collaboration with the United States National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NuTec Sciences will use the new IBM system to distribute NIH-patented algorithms for analysing disease-causing gene combinations. These algorithms can help researchers enroll the right patients in clinical trials and predict outcomes, thus enabling drug discovery and targeted therapies to be developed in less time and at a lower cost.

"The ability to scan thousands of genes at the same time has been of great value, particularly in trying to deduce the critical differences in gene expression between a normal and a diseased cell", explained Dr. Andy Baxevanis, the director of Computational Genomics at the National Human Genome Research Institute. "By developing novel software aimed at detecting and understanding these differences, we will be able to make some exciting biological discoveries and find new ways to apply these technologies to patient care."

IBM Life Sciences will work with NuTec Sciences to develop applications that will give medical researchers access to the NIH algorithms from their desktop computers. "We are in a race to translate the raw genetic data into new knowledge which will solve the cancer problem by rationally matching each cancer to new treatments", stated Dr. Jonathan W. Simons, director of the Winship Cancer Institute, one of the facilities utilising NIH algorithms for cancer research. "NuTec Sciences Inc.'s efforts will allow researchers to mine vast genomics data sets in real time and have far-reaching impact on how we do medicine and science."

NuTec Sciences Inc. will lease time on the IBM system to academic research centres, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and offer enhanced computational capabilities for smaller biotechnology start-ups.

"With an estimated 35.000 genes in the whole human genome, sifting through a mountain of genetic data to find a four- or five-gene combination which may be a factor in a particular disease is something like looking for a needle in a haystack", commented Peter Morrissey, president, NuTec Sciences' Life Sciences Division. "This new tool will allow researchers to discover key relationships among subsets of genes. We had the need for an extraordinarily powerful computing environment and, after conducting extensive performance tests, we decided to select IBM as our strategic IT partner."

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