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ASU supercomputer will boost TGen’s biomedical research

November 17, 2008

The "Saguaro 2," a new supercomputer in the facilities of ASU’s High Performance Computing Initiative (HPCI), will be helping the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix speed up its efforts to advance biomedicine.

Saguaro 2, housed in ASU’s Barry M. Goldwater Center for Science and Engineering, is capable of performing 50 trillion mathematical operations per second.

“That’s the equivalent of taking a calculator and doing one operation per second, by hand, continuously for the next one and a half million years,’’ said Dan Stanzione, director of HPCI, a part of the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

TGen will use that speed to continue its research into a the causes and potential cures of variety of human diseases through the use of data-rich DNA sequencing, genotyping, microarrays and bioinformatics.

“This is really a remarkable testament,’’ to the cooperative efforts of ASU and TGen, said Jeffrey Trent, TGen president and scientific director of TGen, especially in a tight funding environment.

TGen researchers are developing new therapies for treating Alzheimer's disease, autism, diabetes, coronary heart disease, melanoma, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, multiple myeloma and breast cancer.

The new computer system doubles HPCI’s capabilities. More importantly for TGen, the system has 20 times the computational power previously available to TGen researchers, said James Lowey, director of TGen’s High Performance Biocomputing Center.

The HPCI storage will be used to store a vast array of data from TGen’s sequencers and simulations, as well as other large data sets from ASU researchers, including a high-resolution mapping of the moon to be performed in 2009 by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The computational power “is crucial to the competitiveness of our research at TGen and at ASU, and is increasingly crucial to our economic competitiveness as a state, and nation, as well,’’ Stanzione said.

High performance computing addresses the needs of science beyond theory and experimentation to “the ever more important role of simulation,’’ which Stanzione calls the “Third Mode’’ of scientific progress.

 “As we move in science into the nano scale of materials and molecular design and diagnostics, or into the macro scale of global climate or the motion of the galaxies, experimentation becomes more expensive and difficult, and simulation becomes invaluable,’’ Stanzione said. “The speed of those simulations determine the speed of progress.’’