Energy, IBM ink R&D agreement on genome supercomputing

Energy, IBM ink R&D agreement on genome supercomputing

The Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has signed a one-year cooperative research and development agreement with IBM Corp. to develop new techniques for studying genes and proteins with high-performance computers.

The researchers will work on scalable operating systems and biology-related applications that could lead to massive computers capable of hundreds of trillions or even a quadrillion operations per second, said Thomas Zacharia, director of the computer science and mathematics division at the Energy lab in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The agreement can be extended if the parties agree.

IBM is developing a supercomputer design strategy called cellular architecture, in which processor 'cells' each contain memory and communications circuits.

Five Oak Ridge scientists will collaborate with the IBM team for Blue Gene, IBM's nearly two-year-old initiative to build a massive supercomputer for protein-folding studies. Such investigations could lead to new drugs and other disease-fighting techniques.

Energy and the National Institutes of Health have been working on mapping the human genome since 1990. Scientists from the federal agencies and a private company, Celera Genomics Corp. of Rockville, Md., completed a rough-draft map last year and expect to finish the high-quality sequence by 2003.

Early this year, Energy's Sandia National Laboratories signed a four-year cooperative agreement with Celera to develop live-science supercomputing technologies based on Compaq Computer Corp. platforms [see story at]. The two efforts should complement each other, Zacharia said.

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