In 1990, the ambitious Human Genome Project saw the light as a 15-year international scientific effort to map the complete DNA sequence of the human being. The entire structure of 50.000 to 100.000 human genes has been estimated to comprise about three billion base pairs. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) recently awarded the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center a $146.000 grant to conduct genome workshops for biomedical scientists in order to familiarize the researchers with the benefits of high-performance computing for DNA sequence analysis.
The NHGRI funding is used to organize two workshops of one week each to train biomedical scientists from around the United States in research methods which are of capital importance for the success of the Human Genome Project. The first workshop already was held in June 1998. The second will take place in the course of 1999. This NHGRI grant is the fourth, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) has obtained to conduct sequence-analysis training. Each grant supports two workshops over a two-year period.
The funding also benefits PSC's biomedical programme, which started in 1987. It has been primarily funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Research Resources. In sequence analysis, there are several methods to interpret the raw genetic information represented by a sequenced strand of DNA. Most sequence analysis consists of comparisons between a newly sequenced strand and a database of known sequences and structures, in order to determine its function or establish the evolutionary history.
Up till now, biomedical researchers working at the PSC, have been training over 1300 colleagues from all over the country. The NHGRI has submitted the PSC training programme to a profound analysis, which has led to an excellent outcome in all categories. The PSC workshops offer participants the perfect balance between theory and hands-on practice. In this way, the scientists are thoroughly prepared to solve all kinds of practical issues and sophisticated problems, encountered in their research.
Since a substantial part of the advanced algorithms applied in this domain, simply cannot be run on the type of computers used in the average labs, the job has to be performed by supercomputers. The power supplied by these machines enables scientists to analyse the most comprehensive data sets, according to Dr. Hugh Nicholas, a PSC biochemist. As the Human Genome Project gradually draws to its end, this kind of sophisticated research will become a major requirement. Please, check in at the homepage of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center for more details.