IBM, ETH Zurich Turn to the Cloud in Battle Against Super-Bacteria

IBM, ETH Zurich and CloudBroker team up to employ cloud-computing solutions that help researchers combat increasingly resistant bacteria.

IBM has announced that researchers from science and technology university ETH Zurich and CloudBroker, a high-performance cloud-computing company, have partnered with Big Blue to use cloud-computing technology to conduct research focused on developing new antibiotics to fight disease.

According to the World Health Organization, the number of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens is increasing dramatically, threatening treatments to tuberculosis, malaria and other now common illnesses caused by various bacteria. The study of bacterial proteins has become increasingly important as understanding the complex elements of bacteria can play a vital role in determining risks and determining drugs that can fight resistant strands.

Using IBM's SmartCloud Enterprise and an enhanced queuing and data-management solution provided by CloudBroker, researchers from ETH Zurich's Institute of Molecular Systems Biology were able to identify nearly 250 potential virulence factors-or molecules that are secreted by bacteria, viruses, fungi or protozoa and then multiply within humans-and create nearly 2.3 million three-dimensional models with nearly 30,000 background data packets to study the function of these harmful, disease-causing pathogens, IBM said.

Moreover, using the IBM Smart Cloud Enterprise, the team had access to almost 250,000 computing hours on a total of 1,000 parallel CPUs producing research on the structure of specific proteins found in the streptococcus bacteria, which commonly causes strep throat in humans.

"For our experiments, we need very high capacity in short time frames," Dr. Lars Malmstrom, ETH Zurich's lead researcher, said in a statement. "Cloud computing allows us to reserve this computing capacity whenever researchers need it, and it is available quickly. Research teams do not need to set it up or maintain it, and thus can concentrate better on their research."

Rosetta, the open-source software that predicts and designs protein structures, protein folding mechanisms and protein-protein interactions, was also deployed on the cloud. Through the use of these various technologies provided by IBM and CloudBroker, researchers were able to analyze the massive amount of data within two weeks, a task that would have taken several months without the use of IBM's cloud-computing technologies, IBM officials said.

IBM has helped thousands of clients adopt cloud models, and manages millions of cloud-based transactions every day, the company said. IBM assists clients in areas as diverse as banking, communications, health care and government to build their own clouds or securely tap into IBM cloud-based business and infrastructure services. IBM is unique in bringing together key cloud technologies, deep process knowledge, a broad portfolio of cloud solutions and a network of global delivery centers. More information about IBM cloud solutions is available.

CloudBroker GmbH, a startup company based in Zurich, provides easy access to high-performance computing applications in the cloud. CloudBroker was spun off from ETH Zurich in 2008. It offers a platform to easily deploy scientific and technical applications on cloud-computing infrastructures that are then ready to be used immediately by researchers, with no additional time spent on installation or configuration of the software. CloudBroker also takes care of user management, testing and accounting of the software, allowing the users to just focus on their research and development.

ETH Zurich-the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich-focuses on education, research and applied results. The university has more than 16,000 students, including 3,500 doctoral candidates, from 80 countries. More than 400 professors teach and conduct research in engineering, architecture, mathematics, natural sciences, system-oriented sciences, and management and social sciences. ETH Zurich regularly appears at the top of international rankings as one of the best universities in the world. And 21 Nobel Laureates have studied, taught or conducted research at ETH Zurich.