IBM setting up cloud for genome research

Teaming up with the University of Missouri, IBM is developing a cloud-computing environment where scientists can collaborate on and share information about their genome research.

IBM is looking to help genome experts further their research by providing a cloud where they can better share information with their colleagues.

IBM and the University of Missouri announced Friday a new initiative to develop a cloud-computing environment where universities and medical professionals could work together on genome research on a large-scale, regional basis.

Tapping into Big Blue's high-performance computers , the joint IBM-Missouri cloud would let researchers share their findings and discoveries with each other more quickly and efficiently than they do now. Such an advancement would push the university's current bioinformatics research even further, potentially improving people's lives, IBM said.

As one example, specific genetic changes in cancer cells help doctors decide how best to treat their patents for breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, and leukemia. To detect those changes, DNA samples must currently be sent out to labs for sequencing and analysis, a process that can take weeks. But by accessing IBM's genomics cloud, medical staff could sequence and analyze those samples in just a few minutes, according to IBM.

"This collaboration with IBM provides our researchers, and those being trained to become tomorrow's researchers and educators, access to critical high performance computing resources needed to process massive data sets and apply increasingly more sophisticated bioinformatics tools and technologies," Gordon Springer, scientific director of the University of Missouri Bioinformatics Consortium, said in a statement. "The availability of these resources will enable discoveries that will benefit mankind and the environment."

In the first phase of the cloud project, IBM said it will offer Missouri an iDataPlex high-performance computer and software that will tie in the university's existing computers and speed up the DNA sequencing and analysis of humans, plants, and animals. In the second phase, Big Blue and the university will work together to create a prototype of the cloud environment. The final phase should see the genomics cloud become fully operational and expand to a regional scale.

No specific time frame was given as to when the project would formally get off the ground or how long it might take to reach the final phase.

This isn't Big Blue's first foray into the world of genomics research.

Last year IBM announced new research into technology that can quickly and relatively cheaply conduct genetic testing. In the past the company has also donated hardware and software to remote areas to further study human DNA around the world. And the original job of IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer was to predict how chains of biochemical building blocks described by DNA fold into proteins.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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