Advancing Healthcare Innovation Through High Performance Computing

Note: This is the first post in a HPC blog series. Visit Dell4Enterprise again in the coming weeks for more on HPC in manufacturing, oil and gas.

We live in an incredible age for medical discovery and healthcare breakthroughs. With the advent of faster, low-cost genome sequencing technology, medical researchers can now understand the underlying genetic and molecular pathways for diseases. But as the technology enabling this era continues to advance at an astronomical rate, so too does the volume of data being collected by researchers and medical staff with no signs of slowing down.

Genomic data, X-rays, MRIs and other medical information are both voluminous and complex, and require sophisticated computer systems using the latest data analytics techniques to be useful. Plus health data has to be affordably stored and available for long periods of time, while maintaining data security and privacy regulations, so these systems never shrink.

Healthcare organizations and medical researchers lacking adequate resources to capture and manage this data are faced with the challenge of designing and deploying their own infrastructure, often with minimal IT expertise or support. Also, complex integration and performance tuning of the infrastructure can take months — all resulting in low system usage and discovery delays that can be the difference between life and death.

Adding to this complexity is the trend toward bringing different types of data sets together – such as genomic data, electronic medical records and clinical trials data – to develop an understanding of complex medical conditions for the specific individual, known as precision medicine. Doctors now have the ability to analyze a specific patient’s unique genomes for early signs of a disease and match them with specific treatments that will be more effective. Previously, this type of diagnostic and personalized treatment took months, but now with powerful technology, personalized medicine has the potential to take days or even hours!

High performance computing (HPC) has played a critical role in healthcare data analysis for decades, but new systems, combining traditional high performance computing technologies with high performance data analytics, are changing the game by accelerating processes for healthcare organizations of all sizes and making that complexity manageable. We’re incredibly excited about the evolution of the Dell HPC System for Life Sciences, which was initially developed specifically for genomic analysis. Partnering closely with our customers at the forefront of genomics research, including Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC), we developed the Dell HPC System for Life Sciences to help accelerate time-to-insight for a range of healthcare fields including pharmaceuticals and cancer research.

This first-of-its-kind platform is designed and optimized to deliver high-throughput and fast turnaround of genomic workflows, which is essential for patients with chronic or life-threatening diseases and delivering on information-driven healthcare. It integrates easily with the latest generation of sequencing machines from companies like Illumina, and captures sequencing data directly into the system for processing. Sequence data is then network-accessible by researchers for further investigation and correlation with other data sources.

Combining comprehensive HPC and data management systems with domain expertise and technical know-how, Dell is proud to be making a difference by helping genomic research organizations across healthcare, government, universities and industrial labs accelerate their research .

Most HPC implementations traditionally have been at large research hospitals focusing on prominent health issues such as cancer, heart disease, AIDS and Alzheimer’s. Dell is now eliminating the barriers for smaller organizations that concentrate on hundreds of other ailments like asthma and hepatitis that affect millions of people, opening opportunities for a wide array of new medical and genomic research. Widespread HPC availability allows for research on a massive number of species including bacteria and viruses, enabling discoveries that are critical to public health.

HPC is no longer considered an arcane or niche technology. The market has matured and scientific institutions of all sizes are taking advantage of its power to make some truly ground-breaking medical discoveries. Healthcare and research organizations need to consider a three- to five-year roadmap with the understanding that sustained, massive data growth is inevitable. By adopting HPC systems, they can accelerate their research and the delivery of life-saving medical treatments. Dell works to provide the right tools to help healthcare organizations worldwide. We’re proud of the work our life science customers are doing to change the world and humbled to play a part in their important work through our HPC systems.

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About the Author: Ed Turkel

I've joined Dell's growing HPC team in the role of HPC Strategist, helping to develop Dell's evolving HPC Strategy, as Dell EMC increases its investments in this strategic and growing market.