Genome Institute of Singapore

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In this video Niranjan Nagarajan, Group Leader and Associate Director of Computational and Systems Biology at the Genome Institute of Singapore, talks about how a BT Cloud Compute infrastructure is helping the institute scale its resources to match rapidly-growing throughput and develop powerful new research tools in the cloud.


The power of computing is opening up a whole new world for the Genome Institute of Singapore. Its inspirational vision ranges from individualised healthcare for rare cancers to beating potentially fatal infections. And applied genomics is the key to unlocking this radical approach.

Using the latest gene-sequencing techniques, this task involves number-crunching by the terabyte to feed multiple shared research pipelines. But the vast volumes of information being produced were outstripping available computing resources.

Niranjan Nagarajan and his colleagues realised a BT Cloud Compute solution would help them process data hundreds of times faster. Now they’re set to speed new analytical tools into the hands of medical researchers and clinicians worldwide.

The real challenge for GIS is no longer the analysis itself, but the vast amount of data produced during analysis that needs to be managed and stored. And this is where the cloud computing resources that BT provides really help us advance the science.”
- Niranjan Nagarajan, Associate Director, Computational and Systems Biology Genome Institute of Singapore

Processing precious data from the book of life

Biomedical research promises a rich harvest of treatment innovations. That’s why it’s the focus of intense activity right now. New drugs, new diagnostic tools and specific treatments matched to every individual patient’s needs – these and more are on the way. And the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) is one of the world’s leaders.

Its work is hugely data intensive and, in the global race for results, it was facing a major challenge. With 3.2 billion DNA base-pairs in the human genome, one major challenge is reducing the time needed for analysing a single individual’s code. With the massive amounts of data generated through gene sequencing, every new project was making the bottleneck progressively worse.

Niranjan Nagarajan, Group Leader and Associate Director in Computational and Systems Biology at GIS, says: “We were constantly playing a catch-up game to acquire more resources to meet our sequencing throughput.”

Scalable, real time resources for rapid growth

Using dedicated servers to handle the ever-mounting data volumes had become unworkable. “The faster the science is, and the larger its scale, the quicker we can draw robust conclusions and the sooner we’ll reach the point where it’s out there in clinical care,” Nagarajan says.

GIS considered the power of the cloud as a solution to those challenges, compared to on-premises infrastructure. Virtual machines promised to scale computing capacity to meet fluctuating data throughput in real time. “We were delighted to find that BT has a strong presence in Asia,” says Nagarajan. “This allows us to talk directly to BT experts.”

The BT Life Sciences specialist team collaborated with GIS and BT Advise Compute experts to create exactly the right BT Cloud Compute architecture to manage the institution’s research requirements.

Accelerating advanced medical understanding worldwide

The BT for Life Sciences Cloud Compute solution offers a massive research capacity increase – a huge opportunity expansion in the global race for a healthcare revolution.

GIS is strongly aware of the potential of its work to transform medical treatment. A future intent is to be able to license its intellectual property to other organisations, thereby supporting the advance of medical knowledge across a broad front.

Nagarajan sums up: “We’re experimenting with putting GIS genome analytic pipelines on the BT Cloud. What we’re particularly excited about is the chance to develop new analytic tools that can be used by researchers round the world. We can foresee a future where we’ll be directly involved with clinical treatment decisions.”

It took nearly 20 years for the Human Genome Project to tease out the secrets of the genetic code, often described as ‘The Book of Life.’ Thousands of scientists collaborated across borders to piece the puzzle together. Their pioneering work is now set to yield life-saving advances as partnerships, like the one between GIS and BT, to transform medical understanding. And the next steps should be very much faster.

Nagarajan concludes: “The team has had a fantastic experience working with BT, and this lays the foundation for strong future collaboration between BT and GIS.”