Wednesday, July 16, 2008

TGen Awarded $1.99 Million Grant to Advance Highly Parallel Supercomputing

[Source: TGen] - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today awarded a $1.99 million grant to the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to enhance its supercomputing capabilities. The grant was one of only 20 funded by the Center for Research Resources (NCRR), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The project aligns TGen with Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering and Biodesign Institute, as computational and bioinformatics teams will build a scalable supercomputing system and work to develop various computational and statistical tools that address complex biomedical questions. When up and running, the new system doubles the supercomputing capabilities currently in place.

“In today’s genomic research environment, high-throughput instruments allow scientists to collect increasingly large amounts of data,” said Dr. Ed Suh, Senior Investigator & Director Chief Information Officer of TGen’s Computational Biology division and the grant’s Principle Investigator. “This scalable computing system will allow TGen and ASU scientists to explore those large volumes of complex data more thoroughly and at an accelerated pace.”

TGen and ASU scientists are collaborating on a variety of research projects that develop and examine molecular profiles of human diseases and fundamental pathways involved in disease states. The focus is to discern complex or simple sets of biomarkers useful for disease diagnosis and prognosis, as well as to develop molecular classification for directing optimal therapeutic choice and identifying new targets. The molecular profile datasets being analyzed cover diseases including: Alzheimer's, autism, diabetes, coronary heart disease, malignant gliomas, melanoma, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, multiple myeloma, and breast cancer.

“The parallel supercomputing system supported by this NIH grant provides a powerful resource for ASU and TGen engineers, researchers, biomedical informaticians, computer scientists and biologists to interact in solving complex computational problems that will lead to better disease diagnosis and prognosis. This is a great opportunity to enhance our supercomputing capability with a dedicated system for biomedical research,” said Dr. Deirdre Meldrum, dean of ASU’s School of Engineering and director of the Center for Ecogenomics at the Biodesign Institute at ASU.

For the complexities of many of today’s biomedical computational research, handling vast amounts of raw data creates a bottleneck in research due to the slow computer processing time. Technology has evolved quite rapidly in the last five years, making it possible to greatly increase the amount of processing power available to researchers. The system to be developed by TGen and ASU will possess higher-bandwidth and storage to allow efficient development and use of computational models and algorithms at a rate of nearly 24 trillion operations per second.
According to Dr. Dan Stanzione, director of ASU’s High Performance Computing Initiative (HPCI), this means answers will come faster.

“The success of TGen and ASU scientists to date has come at the sacrifice of time. However, individuals affected with disease do not have the luxury of time. The parallel cluster-computing system will optimize TGen and ASU researchers’ ability to meet their data analyses and systems modeling needs, and hopefully accelerate timely and effective discovery toward improved human health,” said Dr. Stanzione.

The TGen and ASU high performance computing groups have also developed various parallel computing techniques such as domain decomposition and dynamic load balancing methods to achieve optimal efficiency in solving computing and memory intensive problems on parallel computing machines. All of the techniques take full advantage of the parallel cluster computer system.

“In an era of highly-competitive grant funding, this award speaks to the quality of research happening at TGen and ASU, and illustrates yet again, the collaborative nature of Arizona’s biomedical research environment,” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen’s President and Scientific Director.

The parallel cluster computer system will be installed in the HPCI facility located on the ASU campus. HPCI staff will provide management and operational support for the system in conjunction with TGen’s HPBC team.

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