National Institutes of Health to award $1,3 million to Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center for biomedical research

Pittsburgh 19 February 2003The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) has received an award of $1,3 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to advance research in biology and medicine. This award, from NIH's National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), will provide for computational resources to support the work of several world-leading, biomedical research teams.


Through the NIH grant, PSC will acquire, install, and operate a "shared memory" computing system with advanced processor technologies, a very large memory capacity and associated storage. It will be based on the newest generation of Hewlett-Packard AlphaServer systems, the GS1280, announced in January 2003. The new system will be dedicated to serve the biomedical research community nationwide.

"Such a shared memory, high-performance system is not now available to biomedical researchers", stated Marjorie A. Tingle, director of the Shared Instrumentation Grant Programme at NCRR. "This new resource will enable them to study particularly demanding data-intensive, memory-intensive, and compute-intensive problems that are currently beyond reach."

The new system will complement LeMieux, PSC's 3000-processor terascale computing system which is the most powerful system in the United States committed solely to public research. "The memory structure of this NIH system", stated PSC scientific directors Michael Levine and Ralph Roskies in a joint statement, "will significantly advance a large class of important applications in biomedical research, including protein simulations and genome sequencing."

Part of the new system will be dedicated to four world-leading research teams in the diverse biomedical fields of genomics. They include scientists Eric Lander, Jill Mesirov, and colleagues at Whitehead Institute; structural biologist Klaus Schulten, University of Illinois; chemical biologist Michael Klein, University of Pennsylvania; and neuroscientists Terence Sejnowski and Thomas Bartol of the Salk Institute together with Joel Stiles from PSC.

While the NIH system will provide less total processing power than LeMieux, it will give researchers access to an exceptional memory capability. Unlike LeMieux, in which the memory is distributed over 750 processing nodes, the shared memory architecture of the NIH system will allow each processor equal access to all of the memory available on the entire system, which has compelling advantages for many scientific applications.

Furthermore, the processors in the new system, HP's new EV7 Alphas, have exceptional "memory bandwidth", the speed at which data is transferred between the processor hardware and random access memory. Benchmark tests have demonstrated that the EV7 memory bandwidth is five to ten times greater than comparable products.

Since 1987, when PSC became the first computing centre outside of NIH to receive NIH support, PSC's biomedical group has developed technologies in computational science and worked closely with major scientists in biology and medicine to solve important problems in the life sciences. Through this programme, PSC has provided computing resources to nearly 1000 biomedical research projects involving over 2200 researchers in 43 states and the District of Columbia.

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is a joint effort of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh together with the Westinghouse Electric Company. It was established in 1986 and is supported by several federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and private industry.

Leslie Versweyveld

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