IBM and Scripps Research Institute to collaborate on pandemic research

Boca Raton 16 February 2006IBM and the Scripps Research Institute have set up a collaborative initiative to conduct advanced research on pandemic viruses leveraging the industry-leading talent and technology from both organisations. The Check-mate Initiative will capitalize on Scripps Research's world class research in the areas of biochemical modelling and drug discovery and IBM's expertise in computational biology bio-patterning and supercomputing. The joint research team will exploit the use of IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer, the world's fastest supercomputer technology, and have access to Scripps Research's new state-of-the-art biomedical research facility, Scripps Florida, in Palm Beach County.


"This is a very exciting and timely collaboration between two of the finest institutions in our state", stated Governor Jeb Bush. "It is exactly the type of advanced research and talent we want to attract to the State of Florida."

"The United States Government and the international community have realized the magnitude and potential severity of pandemics", stated Dr. Richard A. Lerner, M.D., Scripps Research president. "This will be an enormous arena for advanced research. Having the opportunity to work with IBM's talent and technology makes possible the concept of modelling and simulating a virus with the ultimate goal of containment."

This combined team will have access to unparalleled resources from Scripps Research's network of scientists and to IBM Research's depth of expertise in bioinformatics, structural biology, life sciences research, functional genomics, systems biology, and medical informatics. Check-mate will create a "collaboratory" in South Florida, to focus and accelerate the pace of discovery for advanced research of infectious diseases, such as Avian Influenza.

"This combination of talent and technology will provide powerful and unique innovation to better understand and pro-actively anticipate the behaviour of these complex viruses", stated Pete Martinez, IBM Senior Executive for South Florida and Vice President, Business Consulting Services.

IBM and Scripps Research have identified the initial research team for project Check-mate. Dr. Ajay Royyuru, Senior Manager, IBM Computational Biology Center will lead the IBM Research team. Dr. Nicholas Tsinoremas, Director of Informatics for Scripps Florida will lead the Scripps Research team. Dr. Richard Lerner will personally provide direction to the combined team. The combination of the talent and the technology will be used to study the genetic variations of the virus and responses from the host immune system, and develop methodologies to anticipate and contain the disease ("Check mate").

The first order for this team will be the definition of the key areas of research to be pursued with the aim of significantly impacting pandemic response at a national and global level. The following phase is expected to attract collaborations with leading experts from around the world for the execution of the research projects. In the third phase, the team plans to work with government agencies and key enterprises to implement the understandings and technologies resulting from project Check-mate. Work is expected to begin immediately.

The Scripps Research Institute, headquartered in La Jolla, California, in 18 buildings on 44 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is one of the world's largest independent, non-profit biomedical research organisations. It stands at the forefront of basic biomedical science that seeks to comprehend the most fundamental processes of life. Scripps Research is internationally recognized for its research into immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neurosciences, auto-immune, cardiovascular, and infectious diseases, and synthetic vaccine development.

Established in its current configuration in 1961, it employs approximately 3000 scientists, postdoctoral fellows, scientific and other technicians, doctoral degree graduate students, and administrative and technical support personnel. Scripps Florida, a 364.000 square-foot, state-of-the-art biomedical research institute, is to be built in Palm Beach County. The facility will focus on basic biomedical science, drug discovery, and technology development. Palm Beach County and the State of Florida have provided start-up economic packages for development, building, staffing, and equipping the campus. Scripps Florida now operates with approximately 160 scientists, technicians, and administrative staff at 40.000 square-foot lab facilities on the Florida Atlantic University campus in Jupiter.

More news on IBM and the Scripps Research Institute can be found in the VMW December 2005 article World Community Grid targets AIDS in giant research effort.

Leslie Versweyveld

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