Organizations claim initiative will generate life science corridor and benefit clinical services.

The University of Missouri (UM) is partnering with IBM to develop a regional-level genomics cloud computing environment that the organizations claim will allow genomics informatics to be shared across a broad range of fields by researchers, academic organizations, and clinical sites throughout the Midwest.

The UM-IBM project will exploit the latter’s computing technologies in an initiative that, as the first of its kind, will have far-reaching benefits for genomics researchers and clinicians at the sharp end of patient welfare, the organizations suggest.

The availability of a cloud genomics environment means hospital medical staff would be able to sequence and analyze patient DNA in a matter of minutes to aid in disease diagnosis and treatment decisions. Bioinformatics resources could also be shared among universities and institutions across a wide geographic area, potentially leading to a life science corridor across Missouri, Kansas, and throughout the Midwest, the partners claim

Such a genomics cloud environment has the potential to “fundamentally change the practice of medicine as we know it,” suggests Elmin Corbin, IBM’s director of university alliances. “This project will not only benefit the University of Missouri, it will help establish the Midwest as a life science research hub.”

The two organizations will progress the project through a series of stages. An IBM iDataPlex system and software will first be used to integrate all of the university’s existing computing infrastructure for DNA sequencing and analysis. IBM and UM will then work together to generate a prototype cloud computing environment for genomics research, and expand the resulting infrastructure to a regional domain.

UM researchers will essentially be provided with computing resources capable of processing massive datasets and allowing the application of increasingly sophisticated bioinformatics tools and technologies, comments Gordon Springer, associate professor at the UM’s computer science department and scientific director of the University of Missouri Bioinformatics Consortium (UMBC). “The availability of these resources will enable discoveries that will benefit mankind and the environment.”

UMBC was set up nearly 10 years ago to support collaborative research in bioinformatics and life sciences across the University of Missouri system and globally. The consortium provides an integrated array of high-performance computing and communications products and related services to the users, including supercomputing-class hardware, software, mass storage systems, file storage areas, networking services, consulting services, and training.

Details of the IBM-UM partnership follow just 24 hours after IBM announced it was teaming up with Roche to develop a nanopore-based sequencing platform that will potentially allow a whole human genome to be sequenced for just $100 to $1,000.

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