The Pirbright Institute chooses an Atos supercomputer to help fight viral diseases of animals and people
With its new Bull supercomputer by Atos, The Pirbright Institute, UK will boost its capability to carry out bioinformatic analysis of animal virus diseases for research and surveillance purposes
London, 10 January 2017
High-Performance Computing (HPC) and Big Data technology provided by Atos will speed up the processing of omics information and epidemiological studies at the Institute, a world leading centre of research into viral diseases of livestock and those that spread from animals to people (zoonoses).
The technology is an essential tool to enable the Institute to continue to process and analyse huge amounts of information generated by its research projects, building further capability and significantly contributing to the reduction of the impact of viral diseases both in livestock and humans.
Genome research manages massive amounts of data, which requires vast computer processing and storage capacity. By eliminating the bottlenecks that often occur in data analysis and storing data more efficiently, it is possible to generate information about increasing numbers of viral diseases.
Supercomputers are also critical when modelling the spread of disease with realistic simulations that take many factors into account, including work on the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the UK in 2001. Such simulations are essential to increase preparedness and inform policy makers in case of future outbreaks.
Pirbright is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and a unique national centre that enhances the UK's capability to control, contain and eliminate viral diseases of animals through its highly innovative fundamental and applied bioscience. With surveillance, vaccine production and informed support to policy making, Pirbright boosts the competitiveness of livestock and poultry producers in the UK and abroad, thereby improving the quality of life of both animals and people.
The capability provided by Pirbright is essential in the context of the ever-changing nature of viral disease threats emerging from the globalisation of trade, environmental change and expanding human and animal populations.
Computational and bioinformatics facilities are the key link in the long chain of cutting edge research facilities at Pirbright, notably a number of high- and low-containment laboratories, a bioimaging suite and a unit for sequencing in containment. To meet the Institute’s requirements, Atos provided a Bull system featuring several types of computer nodes in order to be able to deal with the complexity of the tasks carried out in the different departments of the Institute.
“Atos came up with a combination of different platforms that will allow the institute to analyse and collate the broad range of datasets generated by our research programmes. We were looking for an IT partner with a broad expertise in life science projects”, says Bryan Charleston, Interim Director of The Pirbright Institute.
“Purchasing a supercomputer is not like going to a supermarket and picking something off a shelf. It required a lot of design and discussion to define the system we wanted. Atos has enabled us to fully support our computational needs. We can assemble genomes, study the interaction between virus and host, understand how viruses evolve and model how they spread between individuals and farms”, says Paolo Ribeca, Head of Integrative Biology and Bioinformatics at Pirbright.
“Atos is determined to solve the technical challenges that arise in life sciences projects, to help scientists to focus on making breakthroughs and forget about technicalities. We know that one size doesn’t fit all and that is the reason why we studied carefully The Pirbright Institute’s challenges to design a customised and unique architecture. It is a pleasure for us to work with Pirbright and to contribute in some way to reduce the impact of viral diseases”, says Natalia Jiménez, WW Life Sciences lead at Atos.
Andy Grant, Head of Big Data and HPC, Atos UK&I, said “We are really excited to see our HPC and analytics technologies being deployed in such a critical area of science, fundamental to the health and wellbeing of both our animal and human populations. The Bull supercomputer and storage environment deployed has been designed specifically to tackle kinds of data intensive computing challenges that The Pirbright Institute undertakes, removing bottlenecks to dramatically increase the throughput of analytical jobs.”
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