Supercomputer shines light on cancer research

Sheffield 04 September 2007Diamond Light Source, the United Kingdom's brand new synchrotron facility - a super size light-based microscope - and one of the brightest sources of light in the world is using a high performance compute cluster (HPCC) to enable scientists to undertake larger, more complex life sciences research and complete analysis of research more quickly - reducing data analysis time from weeks to near real-time.


Visiting scientists are able to reduce costly repeat visits to the facility as the availability of a HPCC to analyse data increases on-site productivity.

For the consumer, the HPCC facility ensures quicker data analysis resulting in faster results delivery in the areas of drugs and medicines for diseases such as cancer; improved immune system studies and permit scientists a better understanding of diseases such as Creutzfeld-Jacob-Desease (CJD), Alzheimer's Disease and BSE.

Dave Stuart, head of the division of structural biology at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, was one of the first users of the synchrotron facility and HPCC. Dave Stuart used Diamond Light Source X-rays to visualise the structure of a protein molecule that is found on human cells.

The project funded by cancer research UK and the United Kingdom Medical Research Council will provide vital knowledge to assist in the design of more effective drugs to combat certain types of cancer.

"The HPCC is enabling visiting scientists like Dave Stuart to access research results, analyse findings and if necessary adjust research parameters on-site before they have vacated the synchrotron facility", stated Alun Ashton, Diamond Light Source. "This reduces data analysis time from weeks to near real-time enabling potentially life saving drugs to come to market quicker."

The solution's entire design, install and maintenance is provided by OCF, a British high performance computing integrator. "The availability of a high performance computer contributes to making Diamond Light a world-leading facility", stated Julian Fielden, managing director, OCF.

The HPCC system - based on a cluster model - contains 24 IBM x3455 servers with AMD dual-core Opteron processor; IBM x3655 server with AMD dual-core Opteron processor and a Voltaire Grid switch ISR 9024 for high speed networking.

The synchrotron project opened to its first seven users in January 2007 and is funded by the British government via the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) and the Wellcome Trust.

Leslie Versweyveld

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