Asian Scientist Magazine (Aug. 19, 2022) — Blockbusters might still be headlining at the box office, but not when it comes to healthcare. Increasingly, the life sciences industry is shifting its interests from the development of mass-produced drugs, aka blockbuster drugs, towards developing niche, high-value, personalized solutions for patients.
This is where genomic sequencing—a comprehensive laboratory method used to decipher the genetic material found in an organism or virus—has become crucial. By helping researchers understand more about diseases caused by genes and environmental factors, genome sequencing can in turn lead to earlier diagnoses, interventions, and even increase the chances of successful treatment.
But here’s the thing, the exponential growth in the volume of genomic data has presented a “sequencing paradox”. While technology has solved discovery and scientific challenges, technology infrastructure itself has now become a hindrance.
A recent whitepaper titled ‘Leveraging High-Performance Compute Infrastructure to Address the Genomic Data Challenge in Life Sciences’ that was commissioned by Lenovo & Intel, and led by IDC noted that 28% of Asian respondents selected “solution is not scalable” as the top-most reason to evaluate enhancing their existing High Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructure. “Too much customization required” (20%) and “[the] solution is very complex” (24%) rank second and third respectively.
Here’s where HPC and Artificial Intelligence (AI) come to the rescue. Sinisa Nikolic, Asia Pacific Director, HPC and AI, Lenovo ISG, tells us how Lenovo leverages Smarter Technology and its Genomics Optimization and Scalability Tool (GOAST) to address some of the key challenges that genomics efforts face.
- GOAST—cool name. What’s it all about?
GOAST uses HPC and AI to help researchers quickly map the genomes of a cohort of people instead of spending time analyzing a single genome. HPC supports high-throughput volumes to accelerate the speed of analysis, whereas AI helps make sense of the differences between genomes.
The solution measures an individual’s susceptibility to diseases, predicts their responses to specific treatment and eliminates unnecessary side effects. Through its predictive capabilities, GOAST ensures that treatment is less reactive – so that healthcare providers deliver true health care, rather than sick care.
- What are some key challenges that scientists typically face when it comes to deploying emerging technologies for their genomics research?
Early efforts at sequencing genes were painstaking, time-consuming, and labor-intensive. It used to take between 60 to 150 hours to process a single human genome. This excessive time taken impacts profits, growth, and delays time to scientific insights.
With the introduction of HPC technologies, such as Lenovo’s GOAST, the single human genome can now be processed in a record-breaking 48 minutes. This is 188 times faster than before!
GOAST also accelerates genomics analytics and increases sample throughput at costs that are one-third lower than solutions relying on expensive accelerators and proprietary software. This democratizes knowledge by making high-performance analytics affordable and accessible to institutes, thereby lowering barriers to innovation.
- Does GOAST benefit other industries as well?
Definitely. For example, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), which operates and manages MareNostrum—one of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe—is collaborating with us to enhance the way it runs complex multi-omics workflows.
BSC understands how critical it is for them to provide powerful computational resources to support the end users. But doing so has become more difficult as the amount of data produced each year has increased. With GOAST, BSC was able to speed up critical multi-omics research for cancer and other diseases by reducing the time needed to process whole genome samples.
- What makes your team different?
Lenovo’s unique approach to delivering world-class solutions to our customers lies in our multidisciplinary expertise, where we have the best engineers from HPC & AI team led by Scott Tease, GM of HPC & AI, and industry’s best scientists in the life sciences group, working in collaboration to deliver powerful solutions to accelerate live-saving discoveries.
By increasing high-throughput analytics, GOAST is empowering researchers everywhere to decrease time to biomedical insights and forge the path to precision medicine. The tech revolution of accessible innovation is here—be it for basic research, infectious disease, or precision medicine.
(Responses are edited for length and clarity).
This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.