A new Bull supercomputer delivered to The Pirbright Institute by Atos, will boost the Institute’s capability to carry out bioinformatic analysis of animal virus diseases for research and surveillance purposes, say its senior scientists.
High-Performance Computing (HPC) and Big Data technology provided by Atos will enable the Institute to continue to process and analyse the huge amounts of information generated by its research projects. 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. 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 is 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”, said Dr Bryan Charleston, Interim Director and CEO of the 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”, said Dr 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, 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.”
Atos SE (Societas Europaea) is a leader in digital services with pro forma annual revenue of circa EUR 12 billion and 100,000 employees in 72 countries including the UK & Ireland where around 10,000 employees deliver business technology solutions for some of the largest public and private sector partners. www.atos.net
Bull is the Atos brand for its technology products and software, which are today distributed in over 50 countries worldwide.