Ulster University data study could ‘unlock insights’ for treating Covid

17 Jun 2021

Prof Tony Bjourson. Image: Nigel McDowell/Ulster University

Using tech from Dell and Seagate, researchers will perform advanced analyses of Covid-19 patient data.

Researchers at Ulster University are undertaking a major data project that could provide insights for treating Covid-19 patients.

The team will examine large volumes of datasets to establish if there are links between genetic make-up and the severity of the disease.

These findings could inform decisions around drug treatments for those with severe symptoms and potentially those with ‘long Covid’. It could also provide insights into how genes may influence vaccinations.

The project will take place at the Northern Ireland Centre for Stratified Medicine based in the C-TRIC facility at Altnagelvin hospital in Derry.

Researchers will perform advanced analyses of Covid-19 patient data with help from Dell Technologies and Seagate, which have provided critical storage equipment and expertise.

“We recently completed the recruitment of the 500 Covid-19 patients for whole genome sequencing,” said Tony Bjourson, professor of genomics at Ulster University and director of the Northern Ireland Centre for Stratified Medicine.

“It means reading the sequencing of the 3.2bn chemical letters that make up each of our genomes. This generates huge amounts of raw data that has to be stored to allow very advanced computational genomic analyses.”

Bjourson added that working with IT company Dell and data storage company Seagate shows how technology can act as a “catalyst for innovation”.

Ulster University and Dell Technologies established an £85m partnership last year, with the aim of developing new technologies that would advance research in digital health and drive innovations in the area of media.

Jason Ward, managing director of Dell Technologies Ireland, said this latest project will build on that partnership, using data and tech to help drive research forward and “unlock insights into Covid-19 and uncover treatment options for those impacted by the virus”.

Fergus O’Donnell, plant manager at Seagate, added that the collaboration would support advanced analytics capabilities that could “enable progress in this vital area of research and bring benefits for local and global communities”.

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic