Computing for a cure

How does a computer cure cancer?

While many may not see the connection, super computers play a large role in today’s research. Many researchers use the immense computing power of super computers to run complex experiments. Through mathematical modelling and computational simulations, researchers can better understand the biological processes that occur within a cell, translating the genetic information stored in our DNA into physical characteristics and traits that we can see.

“Computational biology has the potential to do this. It is a tool used to rigorously and mathematically describe and investigate biological processes, impacting our understanding of genetics and healthcare. Computational biology has the potential to become one of the most important areas of scientific research in the twenty-first century.” Says Dr. Tatiana Tatarinova, University of South Wales, Genomics and Computational Biology Research Group.

The challenge we face is twofold: 1) a shortage of available super computers; and 2) access is expensive, forcing researchers to spend valuable research time writing grant proposals.

Shortage of available super computers

In February 2016, The Globe and Mail reported that Scientists across Canada who need access to fast and powerful supercomputers to conduct their federally funded research say they are falling behind their international competitors, or having to switch to less ambitious projects because the country’s digital research infrastructure is insufficient to meet their needs.

What’s needed is not simply more data storage but also computational capacity – the ability to crunch through reams of calculations to do things like analyze genetic variants across an entire population.

Compute Canada, the organization tasked with supporting university-based researchers with their digital needs, says that the growing reliance on computation in many areas of science means that it is no longer able to provide its biggest users with the digital muscle they need to operate in the world’s top tier. The organization projects that more modest users of its services could be running into similar barriers in the next couple of years.

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Our cloud-based platform will allow for easy scalablility at a fraction of the cost of today’s data centres. More access means more research, which will result in better treatments and a quicker road to a cure.

Cost to access super computers

In addition to the shortage of access to super computers, scientists also have to face the cost to utilize these massive systems. Researchers spend much of their valuable time writing grant proposals, sourcing funding for their research, and dealing with administrative red tape.

Our goal is to ensure that researchers have subsidised, and in some cases free, access to the computing power they need. This will limit the amount of time needed to source funding and allow researchers more time to focus on their goals.

An improved understanding of the genetic factors underlying the onset of cancer in each individual patient will lead to the development of improved—and personalised—methods for that patient’s treatment.

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