IBM supercomputer to aid cancer research


30 Jun 2008

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The IBM supercomputer has long been the bastion of university research, last year launching a humanitarian project drawing on the resources of the World Community Grid (WCG). This joined together the computational power of individual computers to find cures and treatments for potentially deadly diseases including the West Nile virus and Hepatitis C.

The latest venture of the supercomputer into research involves donating the processing power of Canada’s fastest research supercomputer to the Ontario Cancer Institute to push forward cutting-edge work that will involve scanning millions of images of disease-related proteins.

This analysis of protein superstructures will aid researchers in designing more effective cancer treatments by quickly identifying toxic proteins.

The System Cluster 1350 uses IBM’s recently released DCS9550 disk storage system in conjunction with 1,344 processor cores running at 12.5 teraflops or trillion calculations per second to analyse and detect these proteins at lightning speed.

"We need to better understand the specific function and interactions of proteins that cause cancer," said Dr Igor Jurisica from the Ontario Cancer Institute.

"This research will enable us to diagnose cancer earlier, before symptoms appear, to have the best chance of treating disease."

Dr Jurisica’s cancer research was added to the WGC in November of last year in contribution to the Help Conquer Cancer project.

The WGC, the tagline of which is ‘technology solving problems’, also runs global computing projects for AIDS research and to help grow more nutritious rice in developing nations.

By Marie Boran

Pictured: IBM’s famous supercomputer Blue Gene/L