ExaScience Life Lab to Target Supercomputing, Biotechnology

October 7, 2013. Today, Intel, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, imec, and five Flemish universities announced the foundation of the ExaScience Life Lab on the imec campus in Leuven. The ExaScience Life Lab will combine Intel’s supercomputing expertise with Flanders’ expertise in life sciences and biotechnology. The objective of the collaboration is to create new supercomputer solutions and generate breakthroughs in life sciences and biotechnology.

High-performance computing can lead to new insights and breakthroughs in life sciences and biotechnology. As a result, the use of supercomputers will become as strategically vital as lab research. In the development of medical supercomputers, close collaboration with specialists in the field is becoming ever more important since this allows the additional computing power to be utilized to maximum advantage. That is why Intel, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, imec, and five Flemish universities (UA, UGhent, KULeuven, UHasselt, and VUB) have decided to join forces.

The ExaScience Life Lab aims to boost research in the life sciences. Initially, the lab will focus on two fields of application. First, the lab will examine how supercomputers can accelerate the processing of entire genome sequences. Today, such an analysis takes approximately 48 hours, and with the expected explosion of genome data becoming available in the coming years, it is crucial to improve the efficiency of the computing process. A second application area of the ExaScience Life Lab will be to examine the use of computer simulations in the life sciences. Testing hypotheses through computer simulation both cells and tissues instead of through wet-lab testing saves considerable amounts of time and cost associated to lab tests.

The ExaScience Life Lab is conceived as an extension of Intel’s ExaScience Lab for High Performance Computing opened at imec in 2010.

“Intel has an extensive network of research laboratories in Europe. Once operational, the ExaScience Life Lab will be our European centre of excellence for high-performance computing in the life sciences,” said Intel lab manager Luc Provoost. “The collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceuticals should enable us to build even more powerful supercomputers. We expect the lab’s joint research and development efforts to lead to major breakthroughs in the use of supercomputing for bioscientific applications.”

“It is our conviction that the ExaScience Life Lab will act as a catalyst in our aspiration to solve certain critical medical needs through technological innovation,” stated Gunaretnam Rajagopal, Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ head of computational sciences. “In the future, supercomputing will become a key force behind advances in life sciences.”

Flemish Minister of Innovation Ingrid Lieten pointed out that “Flanders enjoys an enviable reputation in the fields of life sciences, biotechnology, and high-performance computing, with a research-driven industry and highly skilled knowledge workers. The ExaScience Life Lab will stimulate collaboration between various disciplines and between the academic and the corporate world. It will establish Flanders as a leading region for supercomputing in life sciences. To achieve this, the ExaScience Life Lab will work closely with the Flemish Supercomputer Centre.”

Luc Van den hove, president and CEO at imec, stated, “We are very excited about this unique collaboration with leading international companies such as Intel and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and with the Flemish universities. I have every confidence that by pooling our resources and expertise, the ExaScience Life Lab will achieve excellent results that will stimulate research and development in the life sciences. I would like to thank the Flemish government and IWT for their financial support to the ExaScience Life Lab. And I am looking forward to a productive and strategic long-term collaboration.”

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