June 16, 2011

Researchers Tap Azure for Salmonella Clues

Nicole Hemsoth

Researchers at the University of Washinton’s Baker Laboratory have tapped into Microsoft’s Azure cloud to get a better handle on protein structures and how they fold. This can have important implications for understanding how to identify, treat and possibly cure diseases like cancer, malaria, and even salmonella poisoning.

This project was undertaken as a “collaboration between Dennis Gannon in the Microsoft Research Extreme Computing Group who supplied the needed Windows Azure resources via Gannon’s cloud computing research engagement project” said Nikolas Sgourakis, a researcher at Baker Lab.

Sgourakis has developed an algorithm to help him understand how salmonella attacks the body and what role proteins are altered with the toxic introduction. He was able to run the algorithm through 2.5 million calculations in under a week to verify that the system he devised would work. He is currently working on calculating the base properties of salmonella.

Sgourakis notes that in order to conduct this type of research before,it would have taken an incredibly powerful system or would have required thousands of shared hours as a volunteer computing project. The researchers at Baker have already made use of a number of grid computing tools like Rosetta@Home, FoldIt and others, but  Sgourakis says that their time to solutions are happening far faster by tapping into the cloud.

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