Research Institutes Lean on Tech in Race for Knowledge and Treatment

Researchers around the world are sharply increasing computing power for DNA sequencing, cell research and other projects aimed at understanding and defeating COVID-19.

Researchers leading the effort to decode COVID-19 say technology is key to beating the virus and saving lives.

“The more quickly we can sequence patient DNA, the more effectively we can use that data to track and respond to the pandemic,” said Dr. Tom Connor, a Reader at Cardiff University in Wales. “Having information available in time to make critical decisions will ultimately save lives – and the data that we are generating is already being fed back in real time to colleagues within the NHS and government.”

Dr. Connor runs the Welsh COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium sequencing center comprising the university and Public Health Wales NHS trust, where he leads the bioinformatics team within the Pathogen Genomics Unit. The project depends on large-scale, rapid sequencing and analysis. To do this effectively, Dr. Connor needed more compute power for the Cloud Infrastructure for Microbial Bioinformatics (CLIMB) methodology used in the research.

That’s when Dr. Connor tapped his longstanding relationship with Dell Technologies. Now, the company is working closely with the university to provide Dell EMC high-performance servers that add significantly to CLIMB’s capacity to share and analyze large volumes of COVID-19 genomics data. With this solution in place, the joint University/NHS sequencing effort in Wales has the potential to sequence and analyze samples within 24 hours, allowing for real-time responses to results.

“Technology is a critical part of the COVID-19 research going on right now all over the world,” said Thierry Pellegrino, vice president, Data-Centric Workloads and Solutions, Dell Technologies. “It’s crucial to the population of our planet that researchers have the tools to understand, treat and fight this virus. Researchers around the world are true heroes doing important work under extreme and unfamiliar circumstances, and we couldn’t be prouder to support their efforts.”

Dr. Connor’s research is one example of the efforts underway all over the world to beat COVID-19.

  • The Berlin Institute of Health, along with Charité, are working to detect which cells of the lungs and bronchi are targets for COVID-19 infection. Their research involves sequencing 60,000 cells, a task that requires powerful computing capabilities. With Dell Technologies, Intel and System Vertrieb Alexander (SVA), a solution including Dell EMC servers was deployed, allowing BIH and  Charité to accelerate their research and identify which specific cells COVID-19 attacks, a fundamental step toward developing treatments.
  • Dell Technologies provided one of its longest-standing customers, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), with access to the Zenith Supercomputer. This is helping TGen’s efforts to do population-level sequencing which is allowing for rapid genomic analysis, improving public health’s ability to rapidly identify which strains of COVID-19 are circulating more than others, what might be causing local outbreaks, and how fast the genome is mutating and changing. By comparing the results within the context of global genomic information, this COVID-19 sequencing program could additionally inform biomedical researchers in the hunt for better targets for new treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.
  • Universita Degli Studi Di Pisa is a pioneer in high performance computing, and its scientists depend on that infrastructure for research in fields from astrophysics, to computer science and medicine. As COVID-19 significantly impacted Italy, the university doubled down on its partnership with Santa Chiara Hospital, which conducts research into the virus. The university folded the hospital’s needs into an ongoing effort to boost its all-flash storage capabilities and Dell Technologies, with a trusted partner TRII, was able to meet all requirements despite not being able to meet in-person. This allowed the university to support Santa Chiara’s COVID-19 research while proceeding with an AI-based chemistry research project and supporting a multi-cloud shared service for administrative agencies, hospitals and cities in Tuscany.
  • The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin is using advanced computing systems from Dell Technologies to understand how COVID-19 is spreading and how to better track and treat the virus. TACC has joined the COVID-19 High Performance Computing (HPC) Consortium, giving remote access to their two supercomputers, Frontera and Stampede2, to approximately 100 researchers working on COVID-19 research in areas including epidemiology and vaccines. One project, led by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, is evaluating the impact of social distancing measures to provide policy makers with information about the consequences of relaxing or strengthening those measures. In addition, this research is one of the most prominent sources of projections and analysis for national public health officials.

Dell Technologies is also an active supporter of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing (HPC) Consortium, a unique private-public effort spearheaded by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Energy to bring together federal government, industry and academic leaders who are volunteering free compute time and resources on their world-class machines.

Visit The Dell Technologies HPC Community to find out how researchers, computer scientists, technologists and engineers are working together with Dell Technologies to promote the advancement of innovative, powerful HPC solutions.

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