Computing power and big data are fundamental to the bioinformatic research being carried out by the Leadership Computing Facility at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee.
ORNL’s Summit is the world’s fastest supercomputer, with over 200 petaFLOPS for HPC and 3 exaOPS for AI, That’s ten times faster than Titan, its previous generation supercomputing system. Summit fuses HPC and AI computing with over 27,000 NVIDIA Volta Tensor Core GPUs to open up new avenues of discovery.
In a fascinating video, chief scientist Dan Jacobson explains how Summit is helping the ORNL team to undertake groundbreaking research that would not have been possible only a year ago.
Summit’s AI capability and the huge performance boost it can provide is enabling the team to carry out large-scale population studies, mapping patterns in proteins and cellular systems, leading to an understanding of the complex genetic structures that underlie human illnesses and life itself.
Jacobson describes one of the team’s first projects, a study of opioid addiction. Why is it that only ten percent of people who have been prescribed opioids go on to become addicted to them?
Summit is able to compare dizzying numbers of genomes to seek out the variants and mutations that produce a propensity towards addiction in some groups while others are immune.
Jacobson hopes this is just the beginning in the search for answers to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, prostate cancer and heart disease.