NIH Awards $8.5 Million for Biomedical Research at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

PSC’s National Resource for Biomedical Supercomputing is renewed for five years.

PITTSBURGH, November 2, 2006 — The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) has received $8.5 million from the National Institutes of Health to renew its program in biomedical supercomputing. Through this program, the National Resource for Biomedical Supercomputing (NRBSC), PSC scientists pursue research in the life sciences and foster exchange nationwide among experts in computational science and biomedicine.

Established in 1987, PSC’s biomedical supercomputing program — renamed NRBSC last year — was the first such program in the country external to NIH. Along with core research, NRBSC develops collaborations with biomedical researchers at many centers around the country and provides computational resources, outreach and training. The current award, from NIH’s National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), renews NRBSC for another five years.

“For 20 years, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center has provided national leadership in applying advanced computational resources to biomedical research,” said Ralph Roskies, PSC co-scientific director, University of Pittsburgh professor of physics, and NRBSC principal investigator. “This grant is part of NCRR's ongoing commitment to bring together leading-edge computational resources and experts in computing with experts in biology and medicine.”

“We've developed computational tools in simulation and visualization that are helping scientists nationwide,” said PSC senior scientist Joel Stiles. “A great deal of important biomedical work over the last decade owes thanks to NIH support for this program.” Stiles, a medical doctor and computational physiologist with faculty appointments in Biology, Computational Biology, and Neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, is scientific director of NRBSC.

The renewal award supports NRBSC’s research in three core areas: spatially realistic cellular modeling, large-scale volumetric visualization and analysis, and computational structural biology.

“Our long-term vision,” said Stiles, “includes integration of these areas to enable multiscale modeling of molecules, cells and tissues, with a substantial future impact on human health care.”

Spatially realistic cellular modeling centers on realistic three-dimensional cellular models to simulate the movements and reactions of molecules within and between cells, using MCell, DReAMM and PSC_DX software developed at the NRBSC.

Volumetric visualization involves research with software called PSC_VB, also developed at NRBSC, that enables multiple users to share, view and analyze very large-scale three-dimensional and four-dimensional datasets, such as time series of mouse cardiac function obtained from high resolution CAT scan imaging.

Structural biology focuses on the development of computational tools used to determine the structure of proteins from their amino-acid sequence and also the development of quantum-mechanical simulation methods for biomolecules such as enzymes.

NRBSC training activities reach hundreds of scientists each year. Since its inception, NRBSC has provided access to computing resources for more than 1,200 biomedical research projects involving more than 3,500 researchers at 245 research institutions in 46 states and two territories. NRBSC workshops on computational biology have trained more than 3,300 researchers in the use of high-performance computing for biomedical research, in such areas as spatially-realistic cell modeling, volumetric data visualization and analysis, protein and DNA structure, genome sequence analysis and biological fluid dynamics.

About PSC:
The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is a joint effort of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh together with Westinghouse Electric Company. Established in 1986, PSC is supported by several federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and private industry, and is a partner in the National Science Foundation TeraGrid program.