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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 16, 2005

Bioinformatics Center Joins TeraGrid, Receives 30,000 Hours Of Computer Time

The University of Iowa College of Engineering's Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB) recently was selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to join a premier supercomputer network, comprised of about a dozen U.S. university and government research facilities, and receive some 30,000 hours of computer time.

Called TeraGrid, the system is an open scientific discovery infrastructure combining the resources of a number of leading institutions to create an integrated computational system. Although the NSF spent about $250 million building the TeraGrid system, the 30,000 hours awarded to the CBCB could prove to be priceless because the computer time will help scientists conduct research that may one day save lives, said Thomas Casavant, CBCB director, as well as professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering.

"From the mid-1980s until the present, one of the greatest challenges in the high-performance computing area has been actual delivery of advanced computing to a wide range of contemporary applications," Casavant said. "The TeraGrid addresses a large part of this problem by allowing incremental growth of high-performance computing capacity, and distributed access to this grid across the Internet. It's like having a supercomputer in your office simply by having a workstation that is part of the grid."

In connection with TeraGrid, the CBCB will conduct a project titled, "XenoCluster: A Grid Computing Approach to Finding Ancient Evolutionary Genetic Anomalies." The project and the 30,000 hours of computer time likely will advance CBCB genetic research projects aimed at helping to identify the genetic causes of various diseases, such as glaucoma, in order to help improve diagnosis and treatment.

The CBCB is a high-performance computational and informational resource designed to help researchers learn about the molecular and genetic bases of human disease. Currently, the CBCB is engaged in two major National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants: the $733,326 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Shared Microarray Facilities grant; and the $634,990 Brain Molecular Anatomy project.

Initiated in 2001 and sponsored by the NSF, TeraGrid is a partnership of people and resources providing a comprehensive cyberinfrastructure to enable discovery in U.S. science and engineering research. Through high-performance network connections, TeraGrid integrates a distributed set of very-high capability computational, data management and visualization resources to make U.S. research more productive. U.S. scientists recently used TeraGrid to develop the first-ever simulation of the human arterial tree model containing the largest 55 arteries in the human body and to map the universe using high-energy neutrinos, thereby advancing knowledge about the origin of the highest energy cosmic rays.

In addition to the UI, TeraGrid members include: National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill.; San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego; University of Chicago Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill.; the Center for Advanced Computing Research at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.; Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Purdue University; Indiana University; and the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

In addition to conducting research, the CBCB is working to facilitate development of interdisciplinary programs of study to teach professionals the skills of biomedical problem solving using modern computational methods. The center includes researchers from the Colleges of Engineering, Medicine, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Public Health, Business, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Nursing and the Graduate College. It also works with other units, including the UI Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative Genomics and the UI Center for Macular Degeneration and other research support units such as Information Technology Services Research Technologies and the Carver College of Medicine's DNA Core Facility.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu