The Hormel Institute buys IBM supercomputer as it expands role and scope of research

Austin 06 February 2008The Hormel Institute, a medical research unit of the University of Minnesota, will become the first research laboratory in the state to employ the world's most powerful supercomputer design, the IBM Blue Gene. The Institute's acquisition of a Blue Gene supercomputer is part of a multi-year expansion for the facility. The expansion and the new computer will allow the Institute - recognized worldwide for its leading-edge cancer research - to triple the amount of projects it undertakes.


"Blue Gene will allow the Hormel Institute to accelerate cancer research and advance the field of research technology", stated Dr. Zigang Dong, M.D., Dr. P.H., executive director of The Hormel Institute. "The expansion of space and talent, combined with providing the most cutting edge technology available in the world, will propel the Hormel Institute to the next level of scientific achievement."

The Hormel Institute Expansion Project - which includes a new state-of-the-art science lab building and space for 100 new researchers - is planned to be completed this summer. The grand opening is scheduled October 3 followed by a three-day World Cancer Research Conference, with 200 scientists from around the world expected to participate. The expansion was made possible by support from the Hormel Foundation and Hormel Foods Corporation, along with the City of Austin and Mower County and community support.

The institute's acquisition of Blue Gene/L - used by 20 of the world's leading research bodies including Harvard and Princeton Universities and Sweden's Karolinska Institute - reflects a growing collaboration with IBM.

"Information technology will play a lead role in the 21st century in understanding complex and deadly diseases like cancer. IBM is working with leading scientists to battle this deadly disease. The Hormel Institute is one of those targeted institutions", stated Mike Good, Blue Gene programme manager for IBM in Minnesota.

Blue Gene/L, the world's most powerful supercomputing design, is a modular platform, composed of refrigerator-sized "racks". The Hormel Institute plans to install one rack of Blue Gene/L, containing 2048 IBM PowerPC processors and running at 5,6 trillion operations per second, about 300 times faster than a home PC. One person, working non-stop on a calculator, would need 177.000 years to perform the number of calculations that a single rack of Blue Gene/L can do in one second. The PowerPC processors in a single Blue Gene/L rack contain about 95 billion transistors.

Since 2004, the Blue Gene/L platform has led the Top500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers. The Blue Gene family also ranks as the world's most energy-efficient supercomputer platform.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in those under 80 in the United States with approximately 580.000 cancer-related deaths occurring each year, according to the American Cancer Society. The Hormel Institute comprises a group of highly successful medical scientists who focus on the basic molecular mechanisms of cancer in order to use their findings for the development of new anti-cancer agents.

Created in 1942 and a research unit of the University of Minnesota, the Hormel Institute employs some of the world's leading scientists. Its mission is to conduct research and provide education in the biological sciences with applications in medicine and agriculture. Milestone discoveries include the coining of the terms omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids as well as the anti-cancer benefits of compounds found in ginger and green tea and other globally recognized cancer-preventive research findings.

Leslie Versweyveld

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