Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         CONTACT:
September 11, 1998                               Michael Schneider
                                                 Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center Wins Grant to Conduct Genome Workshops

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center has received a grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) to conduct training in research methods that are an important component of the Human Genome Project. The $146,000 grant funds two weeklong workshops, one held this past June and one in 1999, to train biomedical researchers from around the country in using high-performance computing for DNA sequence analysis.

Interpreting the amount of data generated by large-scale sequencing efforts such as the Human Genome Project requires the most powerful computational tools available, both hardware and software. Newer sequence-analysis techniques, such as those develop ed at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, provide more reliable results than commonly used methods. "Many of the more advanced algorithms in this area can't be run on computers available in the average lab," said biological chemist Hugh Nicholas of PSC, a specialist in sequence analysis. "Supercomputers give us power to work with more sophisticated software and larger data sets. This will become increasingly important as the Genome Project nears completion."

In a spring 1998 review, NHGRI rated PSC's sequence-analysis training as excellent or outstanding in all categories. The course is an appropriate mix of theory and hands-on practice, stated the review panel, and participants become well equipped to sol ve significant problems in this area. "We're especially qualified to teach these techniques," said computational chemist David Deerfield, who leads the PSC biomedical program, "because we developed a substantial number of the applications here at PSC."

Sequence analysis includes various methods for interpreting the raw genetic information represented by a sequenced strand of DNA. Most sequence analysis involves comparing a newly sequenced strand to a database of known sequences and structures to infe r function or establish evolutionary history.

PSC's biomedical program, begun in 1987 and funded primarily by NIH's National Center for Research Resources, is one of the first efforts nationally to focus on developing advanced computational methods for biomedical research. Since 1988, PSC's worksh ops have trained more than 1,300 researchers nationwide. This NHGRI grant is the fourth PSC has received to conduct sequence-analysis training, each grant supporting two workshops over a two-year period.

The Human Genome Project, begun in 1990, is a 15-year, international effort to map the human genome — the entire DNA sequence of a human being, comprising an estimated three billion base pairs. NHGRI heads this effort for NIH which, along with the Department of Energy, coordinates U.S. participation in the project. Goals include identifying and sequencing the 50,000-100,000 human genes. Interpreting this vast amount of data is one of the greatest challenges facing the project.

Further information about the PSC biomedical program (http://www.psc.edu/biomed) and NHGRI (http://www.nhgri.nih.gov) is available on World Wide Web.

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is a joint effort of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh together with Westinghouse Electric Company It was established in 1986 and is supported by several federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and private industry.

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Revised: July 1, 1998

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