RIT Collaborates with IBM on Genomic Research

IBM advances RIT’s bioinformatics program with grant for Linux Cluster

New doors to genetic understanding will open at a remarkable rate in the near future, thanks to upcoming applied research in the field of bioinformatics, say university and industry experts. Ahead of the curve, Rochester Institute of Technology and IBM have launched a collaboration based on RIT bioinformatics expertise and IBM’s scientific computer leadership. Toward that end—with the help of an award from IBM’s Shared University Research (SUR) program—RIT is constructing an IBM eServer xSeries Linux Cluster to support a high-performance computing environment for genomic research and development.

RIT’s new laboratory for Evolutionary and Comparative Genomics will collaborate with the IBM Research Computational Biology Center, beginning with use of IBM’s software tools in RIT applications. This allows RIT to deepen research across departments, from information technology to biomedical science, and partner with medical universities and industry, while using and advancing the capabilities of the software.

"RIT is comparing genomes between organisms, and IBM has programs to make that process more efficient," says Gary Skuse, director of bioinformatics in RIT’s Department of Biological Sciences. "We’re extremely excited about all the overlaps we see in their research and our applications."

Potential and ongoing projects that will benefit from the IBM partnership are:

  • Identification of genes involved with late-onset hearing loss (research underway at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf)
  • Protein database development
  • Bayesian network structure learning process

    "Continued growth of the partnership we have developed with IBM is enabling RIT to participate in cutting edge bioinformatics research," says Donald Boyd, RIT associate provost for outreach programs. "Collaborations are in place not only among researchers in various departments within RIT, but also with our colleagues at the University of Rochester Medical Center. IBM's support for this work will undoubtedly ensure that it is fruitful."

        The IBM/RIT collaboration will lead to:     

  •   software for comparative genomic analyses     
  •   simulating DNA mutations and changes     
  •   a database of microbial genomic data     
  •   tools for visualizing the results of genomic comparisons, and protein structures from related and unrelated organisms.     
  •   a unique, Internet resource for comparative genomic analyses offering otherwise unavailable computational abilities to academic and industrial researchers.

    "IBM, through its Life Sciences business unit, is pleased to sponsor RIT through the Shared University Research Program," says Susan Puglia, IBM vice president of eServer Design. "Our direction in high-performance computing and in developing the tools for advanced bioinformatics is well aligned with RIT’s innovative education and research programs in comparative genomics. Establishing this laboratory represents a major step in our collaboration with RIT to advance the science of bioinformatics and the preparation of the future bioinformatics workforce."

    IBM’s Shared University Research (SUR) program awards computing equipment (servers, storage systems, personal computing products, etc.) to colleges, universities and institutions of higher education around the world to facilitate research projects in areas of mutual interest, including: Life Sciences, Grid Computing, Autonomic Computing and Deep Computing. The SUR awards also support the advancement of university projects by connecting top researchers in academia with IBM Research personnel, along with representatives from product-development and solution-provider communities. IBM awards approximately 40 SUR grants per year worldwide. Recipients include Oxford, University of Queensland (Australia), University of Edinburgh (Scotland), Purdue and Indiana University.

    RIT President Albert Simone emphasizes the growth of partnerships in biological research. "This collaborative environment extends RIT’s tradition of a leading institution working with industry and partnering with key universities in applied research. The IBM project will utilize the expertise of faculty in our departments of Biological Sciences, Computer Science, Information Technology, Software Engineering and Imaging Arts and Sciences, among others."

    RIT’s bioinformatics program is part of the university’s First in Class Initiative. FIC builds collaboration between industry and government to advance education, research and student success at RIT.

    Relatedly, RIT’s just-launched Center for Biotechnology Education and Training (CBET) is a national model for comprehensive academic and career-training programs in biotechnology. CBET, dedicated to workforce and community education, conducts on- and off-campus training.

    About Rochester Institute of Technology Internationally recognized as a leader in imaging, technology, fine and applied arts, and education of the deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology enrolls more than 15,000 full- and part-time students in more than 250 career-oriented and professional programs.

    RIT’s biotechnology and bioinformatics departments in the College of Science offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees, ranking among the university’s lead programs, www.rit.edu/~670www/index_flash.html. The biotechnology program, begun in 1983, offers the nation’s first bachelor of science in this field. It continues to be used as a model for institutions throughout the United States.

    RIT launched the uniquely comprehensive B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences in 2001, www.rit.edu/~gccis/, enrolling more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students in information technology, computer science, and software engineering.

    The computing college is home to the university’s Laboratory for Applied Computing (LAC), which partners with industry to develop innovative applications in emerging information technologies. LAC houses the laboratory for Evolutionary and Comparative Genomics.

    For the past decade, U.S. News and World Report has ranked RIT as one of the nation’s leading comprehensive universities. RIT is also included in Yahoo’s Top 100 Wired Universities (RIT has an internal switched 100mbs network fabric combined with a growing network of wireless access points), Fisk’s Guide to America’s Best Colleges, as well as Barron’s Best Buys in Education.

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