IBM cloud aids fight against superbugs

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Big Blue's cloud has helped Swiss scientists in their hunt for clues about how certain bacteria form resistance against antibiotics and cause disease. It's perhaps the latest case where the tech giant ($IBM) has been aiding life sciences concerns in managing and analyzing biological or clinical data in the cloud.

For this latest feat, IBM--which has previously made the case that its cloud could help reduce clinical trial costs--worked with Swiss cloud computing start-up CloudBroker and researchers at the prestigious technical university ETH Zurich, according to IBM. With IBM's cloud and CloudBroker's queuing and data management software, the Swiss researchers analyzed a huge amount of data within two weeks. Without the technology, the analyses could have taken several months.

Indeed, IBM has made life sciences customers a key market for its cloud computing offerings for years. And as scientists compute massive amounts of data from disease proteins and genomes, clouds have proven to be useful in providing the needed computing capacity in short order. The technology also offers potential cost savings for managing and analyzing clinical data from drug trials. While developers are looking for ways to make their R&D run more efficiently, cloud computing has entered the discussion as one way to achieve this.

The scientists at ETH Zurich (from which CloudBroker spun off in 2008) used IBM's cloud to find about 250 virulence factors and conjure 2.3 million 3D models to gain a better understanding of disease-causing bacteria. For their study of streptococcus bacteria that cause strep throat, the scientists tapped nearly 250,000 computing hours on 1,000 parallel CPUs with Big Blue's Smart Cloud Enterprise.

"For our experiments, we need very high capacity in short time frames," Dr. Lars Malmstrom, ETH Zurich's lead researcher, said in IBM's release. "Cloud computing allows to reserve this computing capacity whenever researchers need it, and it is available quickly. Research teams do not need to set it up or maintain it, and thus can concentrate better on their research."

- here's IBM's release

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