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A 'collaboratory' against disease

IBM and Scripps Research Institute announced a partnership Thursday that's designed to combat the spread of infectious disease like Avian flu by combining their respective specialties in supercomputing and biomedical research.

The initiative, called Project Checkmate, gels IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer and techniques for bio-informatics with Scripps research in biochemical modeling and drug discovery. Scientists from both companies will team up to study genetic variations in viruses, as well as responses in people who contract the virus, in order to create ways of thwarting or containing the disease before it verges on pandemic, hence the name "checkmate."

The initiative will create what the two organizations call a "collaboratory" in South Florida, near Scripps' biomedical facility in Palm Beach County, Fla., and IBM's campus in Boca Raton. Scripps President Dr. Richard Lerner announced the project at IBM's campus with Florida Governor Jeb Bush in attendance.

"This will be an enormous arena for advanced researchÂ…(and) makes possible the concept of modeling and simulating a virus with the ultimate goal of containment," said Lerner.

Ajay Royyuru, senior manager at IBM's Computational Biology Center, will head up the IBM side and Nicholas Tsinoremas, director of informatics for Scripps Florida, will lead the Scripps team.