Biotechnology Focus

Biotechnology Focus September 2013

Biotechnology Focus is Canada's leading authority on Canada's life science news. From biopharma and healthcare to ag-bio and clean tech, our readership includes life science professionals, C-level executives and researchers.

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By: Allen Lalonde Across canada Changing the Face of Healthcare with High Performance Computing Across the globe, researchers are focused on trying to not only cure, but to improve the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders that plague the human population. T he results of these efforts will not only improve the quality of life for those living with ailments, but also improve patient experience during diagnosis and treatment and save healthcare systems around the world money in the process. In Canada, and specifically in Ontario, academic and industry researchers have the potential to lead in these developments, partially due to their ability to access a set of technology-leading tools that will allow them to make advances in the healthcare field that were not previously possible. For example, when considering some of our population's biggest health challenges – leukemia, lung cancer, neurological disorders, and diagnosis of disease – the key to addressing these issues may lie in the moun- tains of data that has already been collected on them. The challenge, making sense of this "big data", becomes easier when the right minds have access to the right tools: High Performance Computing (HPC). That's why the IBM Canada Research and Development Centre (CRDC) is offering Canadian researchers the unprecedented opportunity to access an advanced HPC infrastructure that includes the most powerful supercomputer in Canada and some of the most advanced analytics software available today. The CRDC has partnered with seven Southern Ontario universities, as well as the Ontario and Canadian governments, to form the Southern Ontario Smart Computing Innovation Platform (SOSCIP). SOSCIP is a Brain Graph research consortium with the mandate of pairing academic and industry researchers with HPC to analyze big data and fuel innovation leadership in Canada within agile computing, health, water, energy and cities. IBM's $175 million investment in the $210 million initiative recognizes the power of combining the talent of academic researchers with HPC infrastructure. "To have this leg-up at this critical juncture is really exciting," says Mark Daley, an associate professor of Computer Science and Biology at Western University. Daley is using the centre's capabilities to further his research in neuroscience and modeling the brain. "This will help to make us world leaders in many disciplines by enabling us to make sense of the vast amounts of data we're generating." Daley's brain research is one of fifteen healthcare projects using the SOSCIP capabilities. Let's take a closer look at how four of these healthcare projects, currently underway, are using HPC to transform healthcare. Real-time Analysis of Human Brain Networks Each filled circle represents a brain region. At the moment in time represented by this particular graph, if two brain regions have similar activity, a line is drawn between them. In this plot we can see two clusters of highly-linked brain regions, connected by more sparsely-linked regions. 24 BIOTECHNOLOGY FOCUS September 2013 An important tool in the diagnosis of neurological disorders is functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. However, fMRI can be a timely and expensive option. Results can take a week or more to be analyzed, and the current process could result in a patient requiring multiple scans to determine the proper results.

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