"Decrypthon" project harnesses virtual supercomputer power to understand the causes of genetic disease

Paris 29 November 2001Platform Computing, an expert in distributed computing software, is partnering with the French Myopathy Association (AFM) and IBM to launch the "Decrypthon" project. The three partners will enable Internet users to participate in a major scientific enterprise, the mapping of more than 500.000 identified proteins. This initiative will be accomplished by networking the unused processing power of tens of thousands of consumer PCs to create a virtual supercomputer, capable of handling massive volumes of calculations. The database generated by this project will help researchers, such as the AFM, to better understand the cause and development of genetic diseases and the development of new therapies.


Managed by IBM's teams of services experts, Platform will integrate its distributed computing software, including Platform LSF and LSF ActiveCluster, together with IBM hardware and software solutions and Genomining software to power the "Decrypthon" project. It is based on a Grid Computing model, whereby a software application, supported by the Smith-Waterman algorithm, will be shared and executed between a server and the multiple networked PCs at the same time.

To create this virtual supercomputer, IBM will build an end-to-end Information Technology (IT) infrastructure, comprising IBM servers, storage, and services capabilities and Platform distributed computing software. IBM will manage and host the infrastructure, and will provide the resulting protein database to project partners AFM and Genomining. Platform will provide workload management with Platform LSF across IBM's Linux and AIX server farms and will enable distributed desktop processing with Platform LSF ActiveCluster, which harnesses unused desktop cycles to process compute-intensive tasks efficiently, complete workloads faster, and increase user productivity.

The "Decrypthon" application will facilitate calculations and analysis which will compare sequential patterns of proteins and classify them in families of equivalent proteins. In better understanding the biological function of protein sequences, researchers hope to gain insight into the characteristics of a range of genetic diseases. "The Decrypthon project provides an incredible opportunity to accelerate scientific research to benefit people with genetic diseases around the world", stated Alain Wiedmer, Vice President, Europe, Platform Computing. "By harnessing computing resources across Europe, we are building a virtual supercomputer that can run even more analyses, tackle more complex computations, and significantly shorten time to life-saving discoveries."

The initiative intends to compare 500.000 known proteins of humans, animals and plants. By networking consumer PCs, and utilising their unused processing power to process these calculations, Platform, IBM, and AFM will be creating a massively parallel virtual supercomputer, capable of a virtual calculation power of up to 40 teraflops that can dramatically improve the speed of this analysis.

The software, developed by Genomining, a French biological data processing company, will enable the PCs to share the calculation application while they are connected to the Internet. The application will run on the PC whether or not it is connected to the network, with the results reported back when the user is logged on. As the application leverages the unused processing power of the PC, the PC user can go about his or her usual PC or Internet business unimpeded. The project is expected to last approximately seven months.

AFM, the French Myopathy Association, is a French genetic research organisation, sponsoring more than 5500 research programmes since 1987. Created for those suffering with muscular diseases, AFM set up the Genethon laboratory, a leader in genomic mapping. As a result of its investment in Genethon, AFM has helped in the discovery of genes responsible for more than 700 diseases. Since 1997, AFM and Genethon have concentrated on the development of gene therapy technologies.

Genomining is a French biotechnology company, specialising in the analysis of biological data. Genomining offers a unique combination of consulting, bio-computing services, and the development of large biological databases. The company belongs to a new generation of biotechnology companies that manages its research in a computing environment.

Leslie Versweyveld

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