IBM, CloudBroker and ETH Zurich battle bacteria via the cloud

12 Jul 2011

IBM, cloud computing company CloudBroker and researchers from science and technology university ETH Zurich have joined forces to research and develop new antibiotics to fight diseases.

The researchers from ETH Zurich’s Institute of Molecular Systems Biology identified nearly 250 potential virulence factors – or molecules that are secreted by pathogens and multiply within humans – and created about 2.3m 3D models with nearly 30,000 background data packets to study the function of the pathogens.

The team used IBM’s SmartCloud Enterprise and an enhanced queueing and data management solution provided by CloudBroker to complete the work.

The open-source software Rosetta was also deployed in the cloud and with these various technologies, the researchers analysed the data within two weeks, a task that would have generally taken several months.

“For our experiments, we need very high capacity in short time frames,” said Dr Lars Malmstrom, ETH Zurich’s lead researcher.

“Cloud computing allows us to reserve this computing capacity whenever researchers need it, and it is available quickly. Research teams do not need to set it up or maintain it, and thus can concentrate better on their research.”

According to the World Health Organization, the number of antimicrobial resistant pathogens is increasing, threatening treatments to illnesses springing from bacteria, such as malaria and tuberculosis.

The study of bacterial proteins has become important, as understanding the elements of bacteria can play a vital role in determining risks and drugs that can fight resistant strands.