New York, N.Y. — The world’s largest computer company, International Business Machines Corp., said it has sold the world’s largest commercial computer to NuTec Sciences Inc. for use in genomic research. The machine would be able to process 7.5 trillion calculations per second, IBM said, making it the fastest computing system outside of a government agency.
“Life sciences – in a way that it never has before – is driving high-end supercomputing,” said Caroline Kovac, vice president of the IBM’s life sciences unit.
By the same token, she said, interpreting the flood of human genetic information involved with the mapping of the human genome is dependent upon computers. “If you turned all the computers off today, you couldn’t do biology,” she said.
Genomics research seeks to map the precise location of genes and then identify key variations that could be linked to diseases.
Peter Morrissey, the president of NuTec’s life sciences division, said the computer would assist NuTec scientists in working with an algorithm that can help identify the sources of human ailments.
Genetics are being used to find the causes of diseases such as cardiovascular problems and types of cancer.
“This algorithm will allow the researchers to look at the huge data sets, and better look at gene pathways and gene modeling to identify what genetic codes are responsible for certain diseases,” Morrissey said.
He said that very few diseases are caused by a single gene, so researching groups of genes and their functions is the most efficient method of determining the causes of disease.
“Life sciences, biology and genetics are incredibly complex and beautiful systems so what you really need is a systems level approach to it,” Kovac said.
Atlanta-based NuTec Sciences, which is privately held, has an agreement with the National Human Genome Research Institute, which discovered the algorithm.
“This is wonderfully exciting for our internal research scientists,” Morrissey said about the super computer.