Intel, OHSU Use Supercomputing to Analyze Genomic Data

Intel and Oregon Health & Science University are collaborating on a supercomputing project to speed up analysis of human genetic profiles, which could help with personalized treatment for cancer.

Intel engineers and OHSU biomedical experts are working on creating a diagram of the human genome to identify the genetic mutations that lead to cancer.

The map would provide a better understanding of an individual's genetic makeup, allowing biomedical engineers to develop personalized cancer treatment that kills only the mutating cells that cause cancer rather than also attacking the healthy cells—which occurs during chemotherapy, OHSU reported.

Announced April 22, the agreement calls for the two organizations to develop hardware, software and workflow algorithms to accelerate analysis of genetic abnormalities that cause cancer and other complex diseases. Through the use of supercomputing, Intel and OHSU are looking to analyze patients' genetic profiles with increased speed, precision and cost-effectiveness. OHSU's imaging techniques could act as a Google map for cancer, according to the university.

Learning how a disease functions over time within the body is essential for helping cancer patients, noted Joe Gray, associate director for translational research at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and chair of OHSU's Department of Biomedical Engineering.

"By combining Intel's computing expertise with what we know about how to analyze genomes and to create images of how cells change over time, we believe we have the capability to develop the right tools to make significant progress in making the promise of personalized cancer medicine a reality for more patients," Gray said in a statement.

This process of analyzing genetic abnormalities could take decades, but by studying cancer, researchers can gain insight into other complex diseases, Gray said.

Researchers will use Intel's Xeon E5 HPC CPU, which offers Intel Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) and Intel Node Manager Server power-management technology.

"This collaboration combines Intel's strengths in developing energy-efficient, extreme-scale computing solutions with OHSU's lead in visualizing and understanding complex biological information," Stephen Pawlowski, Intel's senior fellow and chief technology officer for the Datacenter and Connected Systems, said in a statement.

Intel and OHSU aim to develop systems that can reduce the time it takes to analyze a patient's cancer profile from weeks to hours, while at reduced cost and with lower power consumption. Analyzing genomic abnormalities and lead to drug development and new diagnostic tests for cancer.

Combining computing power with genomic analysis and imaging can show how billions of genetic mutations act in the body over time to create tumors, OHSU reported.

During the multiyear effort, Intel and OHSU will create new educational programs in quantitative bioscience. The genomic research expands on past collaboration in areas such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring.

"Together, Intel's engineers and OHSU's biomedical experts are optimizing supercomputing clusters and software to isolate the genetic variations that contribute to the root causes of illness," Eric Dishman, general manager for health care at Intel, wrote in a blog post.

If scientists succeed in using supercomputing to develop an individual road map of the genome, diagnostic tests for cancer patients could be more precise, Dishman noted. The research could eventually allow biomedical engineers or oncologists to stop cancer cells from spreading, he said.

Dishman, who's recovering from a kidney transplant, had his own genome sequenced.

"It, too, took weeks of computing and then months upon months of analysis to make sense of my own unique case," he said. "Today, these tools are too slow, too expensive and too rare—I want to make sure everyone has access to the kind of customized care that I lucked into."