OHSU, Intel partner on genetics

Stephen Pawlowski, Intel senior fellow and chief technology officerStephen Pawlowski, Intel senior fellow and chief technology officer

Aim to decode root causes of cancer

Oregon Health & Science University and Intel Corp. are teaming up to develop next-generation computing technologies that advance the field of personalized medicine by dramatically increasing the speed, precision and cost-effectiveness of analyzing a patient's individual genetic profile.

Through a multi-year research and engineering collaboration announced April 22, engineers and scientists from the two institutions will develop hardware, software and workflow solutions for Intel's extreme-scale, high-performance computing solutions. This new level of computational horsepower seeks to make strides in addressing one of the biggest challenges in personalized medicine: how to cope with the unprecedented volume of complex biomedical data it generates, the partners said in a news release.

They said the collaboration combines Intel's strengths in extreme-scale computing capable of handling billions of complex computations simultaneously with OHSU's innovative four-dimensional approach in imaging and analyzing the molecular-level drivers of cancer and other diseases. OHSU's imaging techniques work like a Google map for cancer by providing a highly detailed view of how cells change over time at the molecular level along with a big-picture analysis of how the cells behave as a system.

The team's approach, according to the news release, will be to create information tools that can handle the volumes of data generated in the process – doing it more rapidly, more precisely and less expensively than is capable with current technology. The objective is to drive scientific progress in understanding the genetic origins of illness, starting with cancer, at an individual-patient level and ultimately, to make precision medicine a more routine model of patient care.

[See also: OHSU to put $1M to work on 'smarter' EHR.]

An integrated OHSU/Intel team is working on a research data center equipped with an Intel supercomputing cluster. Along with top researchers from the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, the collaboration will include computer scientists, biophysicists, genomicists, bio-informaticists, biologists and other experts. The team's first projects will be focused on genetic profiling of patients' tumors to look for patterns in how the disease progresses and how to relate this information to how the tumor will respond to treatment.

"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," said Stephen Pawlowski, Intel senior fellow and chief technology officer, Datacenter and Connected Systems Group, Intel Corp. "We look forward to working together with the goal of improving the efficiency of complex disease diagnosis and personalized treatment."

Here’s how

Working side by side with cancer as their first disease target, Intel's engineers and OHSU's biomedical experts are looking to develop a way to create a highly detailed circuit diagram of the genome.

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