Life sciences and health

The Life Science community is very diverse. Experimentalists/biologists strongly depends on computational results. Computational biologists or bio-informatics depend heavily on HPC resources to understand the mechanisms of living systems.

Research in the Life Sciences generates knowledge with a very clear and direct impact on our society. HPC is of great importance particularly in research related to health and biotechnology sector, that beyond big companies encompasses 2,100 biotechnology companies  in Europe.

Challenges: Simulation will reduce costs, time to market and animal experimentation. In the medium to longer term, simulation will have a major impact on public health, providing insights into the cause of diseases and allowing the development of new diagnostic tools and treatments.

With the recent advances in this area (e.g. next generation of DNA sequencing instruments) the generated data is becoming larger and more complex. Appropriate computer resources need to process sequencing data at exascale, i.e handling ExaBytes of data.

In contrast to other communities there are no universal computer packages and software evolves very fast to adapt to new instruments.

The problems faced by scientists working in molecular simulations and genomics are also very different, as are the computer algorithms used.

The importance of having fast and flexible access to very large computational resources is crucial in the many fields of Life Sciences and the lack of suitable computers can block entire projects

Path: beginning of 2000, the Human Genome Project was an international flagship project that took several months of CPU time using a hundred-Gigaflop computer with one terabyte of secondary data storage. Today genomic sequencing is no longer a scientific milestone, but a powerful tool for the treatment of diseases, able to deliver results in days, while the patient is still alive

In coming years, sequencing instrument vendors expect to decrease costs by one to two orders of magnitude, with the objective of sequencing a human genome for $1000.

Roadmap: The European Commission has announced in early 2013 the launch of 2 flagship projects: Human Brain Project and Graphene (1B€ during 10 years per project) that will use PRACE and GIANT infrastructures.

PRACE has 6 petascale systems in France, Germany, Italy and Spain offering a cumulated performance of more than 15 PFlops. 12 companies, from SME to large size, have used the services.