Tulsa supercomputer holds potential for health improvements

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A roughly $3 million "community supercomputer" being built in Tulsa offers an array of massive-number-crunching possibilities, including predictive modeling to improve the health of residents there.

Bruce Benjamin,  associate dean for biomedical sciences at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences said the supercomputer could identify patterns related to risk for heart disease from 15 measurements taken over eight hours from dozens of sleeping volunteers, according to a Tulsa World story.

Gerard Clancy, president of the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, says the supercomputer could predict a person's conditions in 20 years--or could do so for the city as a whole, the World previously reported.

"We can predict where Tulsa's health will be 20 years from now. How many people will need a liver transplant? How many people will need a kidney transplant? And we can from what is predicted be able to make adjustments so that we can be a healthier community," Clancy said.

To be operated by the nonprofit Oklahoma Innovation Institute, creation of the supercomputer has been a collaborative effort by the University of Tulsa, the Tulsa branches of the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, Tulsa Community College and local business.

Due to be fired up in early 2012, to start it will house only about a third of its 324-node capacity. Money to begin at that level has been raised through private donations, contributions from area universities and businesses, and federal grants, though it's part of a larger $6.7 million project. 

It's called a "community" computer because along with universities, businesses of all sizes will be able to buy nodes at $10,000 each for their own projects.

The system is expected to be among the top 25 academic supercomputers in the country, a list Indiana University expects to lead next spring with a new1-petaflop-per-second model from Cray, according to Information Management. It also will be the largest community supercomputer in the nation.

Advances in computing power for genome sequencing were among the "confluence of enabling technologies" cited in the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's "Moon Shot" plan to tackle eight forms of cancer.

Cleveland Clinic is putting IBM's "Jeopardy" star Watson to work in its med school to help students analyze medical problems and develop evidence-based solutions.

More computing power also is enabling modeling of complex diseases, leading to advances against diseases such as Alzheimer's as well as improvements in preventive care, four Johns Hopkins professors wrote recently in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

To learn more:
- read the Tulsa World article
- here's the second World story
- check out the Information Management piece

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