With its XIV storage platform and Tivoli and WebSphere Lombardi software, IBM enables the Coriell Institute for Medical Research to organize its biobank of genetic material and reduce storage costs.
IBM is working with the Coriell Institute for Medical Research to
help the biobank operate the IT systems for its cryogenic freezers and better
manage the 4.5 million samples of personalized genetic data.
Founded in 1953, Coriell is
a nonprofit biomedical research institution and the largest biobank of human
living cells. It runs the Coriell Personalized Medicine Collaborative research
study, which aims to explore genome-informed personalized medicine.
"There's an awful lot
of information we can glean from someone's genetic makeup to help us determine
what drugs will work for that person or what complex conditions they might have
a predilection for throughout the course of their life," Scott Megill,
Coriell's CIO, told eWEEK.
The biobank sought IBM's
help to find a way to manage the data in a way a nonprofit could afford while
maintaining huge volumes of data, Megill said.
DNA extracted from blood
cultures is stored for many years. With one person's genome equal to 2 million
points of data and about 1.5GB of information, storing this mass of data
is a challenge.
"The sheer volume of
data that's generated from genetic testing is unlike anything that we've seen
before," Megill said. "It's almost a terabyte of information that's
generated for one patient. It's really incumbent on us to put good tools and
infrastructure in place to simply make that actually comprehensible."
Customizing treatments based
on an individual's genes brings great potential for treatment of patients with
conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. The data can better
inform the decisions of physicians as they care for patients.
IBM monitoring software
allows Coriell to protect its genetic samples from cryogenic freezer failures
and by using the IBM
XIV Storage System, it has reduced storage costs by 30 percent.
XIV is a thin-provisioning
grid storage platform that allocates space on demand, Megill noted. Moving to
thin provisioning and using XIV's grid mode allowed Coriell to significantly
reduce the amount of storage space it consumes.
"Every file is divided
into very small blocks and then spread evenly across the entire bank of drives,
rather than files that go deep on a couple of drives in the array," Megill
explained. "It means you can get the same sort of throughput out of the
XIV using much slower spinning disks," he added, referring to standard
"In the traditional
storage area network array, you'd have to use much faster spinning disks to
achieve the same throughput, and they're much more expensive," he said.
Meanwhile Tivoli Omnibus and
Netcool dashboard applications monitor servers and databases in cryogenic tanks
and freezers to keep them operating properly at the right temperature.
"They basically collect
data from different places and pull it together into dashboarding and alerting
so that we know that a freezer is starting to get too hot or that a particular
segment of our network isn't performing within acceptable thresholds,"
To manage the genetic data
in laboratories, Coriell uses IBM WebSphere Lombardi Edition BPM (business
process management) software, now integrated into IBM
Business Process Manager.
"What Lombardi allows
us to do is work directly with the process owners to determine what the
application should do in a way that we've really not been able to do in traditional
programming methods," Megill explained.
In Lombardi, Coriell uses
flowcharts, or storyboards, to visualize the process of laboratory information
management and inventory control.
technologies have become affordable and available, Coriell is able to keep
costs down and increase efficiency while also driving innovation in the area of
personalized medicine," Andy Monshaw, general manager of IBM's global
midmarket business, said in a statement. "Aligning the right technology
infrastructure to meet its big data challenges, Coriell is well-positioned to
promote tomorrow's medicines and treatments to help usher in a new era of
With one person's genome
soon to equal 3 million points of data, Coriell will turn to IBM's technology
to continue to manage the data overload.
"We've got a heck of a
challenge ahead of us as we kind of enter into this world of full genome
sequencing, so we're continuing to lean on IBM to help us take what's a very
small organization and meet that challenge with tools that are appropriate to
the scale of the effort," Megill said.
Brian T. Horowitz is a freelance technology and health writer as well as a copy editor. Brian has worked on the tech beat since 1996 and covered health care IT and rugged mobile computing for eWEEK since 2010. He has contributed to more than 20 publications, including Computer Shopper, Fast Company, FOXNews.com, More, NYSE Magazine, Parents, ScientificAmerican.com, USA Weekend and Womansday.com, as well as other consumer and trade publications. Brian holds a B.A. from Hofstra University in New York.