The National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Taiwan recently put the high performance computing resources of a Cray supercomputer into its Computer and Network Center. The university’s new system, a Cray XE6m supercomputer, can achieve peak performance of more than 4 teraflops. Acquiring a new supercomputer is an important step for the university. The Cray XE6m system, which will be overseen by the university’s supercomputing research center, will be used for critical research that will ultimately benefit society at large. Research otherwise not possible without their new Cray.
NCKU’s life sciences research project
NCKU has supported a wide range of research efforts in its Computer and Network center, but the university is gearing up for a large-scale life sciences project that could support efforts to deal with global medical problems. The Cray XE6m system will play a major role in university’s efforts. The supercomputer’s performance capabilities are integral to helping NCKU researchers as they explore new drugs that could be used to combat genetic mutations of diseases that are becoming resistant to current treatment solutions. Furthermore, the NCKU project will also work with drugs being developed in the ongoing fight against cancer.
Ideally, the research efforts at NCKU will lead to the development of multi-target drugs. This means that the medicines developed through this research will be able to go after multiple targets of either a single or multiple related diseases. The supercomputing solution will be used for research that will identify possible multi-target strategies by reverse engineering biochemical networks. At the outset, the initiative will focus on treatments relating to lung cancer.
Supercomputing and drug research
Effectively analyzing a drug’s potential requires simulating how the chemicals in the medicine will interact with key proteins in the human body. On a Cray XE6m system, a single target protein can be screened for millions of small compounds and its parallel capabilities effectively reduce in silico screening from days to hours. Supercomputing is advancing drug research by allowing molecular docking techniques to be used in conjunction with other more CPU intensive simulations to identify how the drug will react in different situations.
By deploying a Cray supercomputer to complement its stable of mini-supercomputing solutions, the NCKU has positioned itself to play a vital role in global efforts to use high-performance computing technology to accelerate drug research and make key advances in the life sciences sector.
The contract with NCKU is another noteworthy example of how the life sciences community is turning to Cray for their high performance computing needs. This week’s Bio-IT World Asia conference in Singapore will bring together a large collection life sciences professionals from across Asia, and I will give a presentation on high performance computing in life sciences and moderating a panel discussion on democratizing genomic research (click here for more information).
To learn more about our work in the life sciences community, please visit the life sciences section of the Cray website.
Carlos Sosa, Principal Engineer