Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, December 3, 2022

Biosciences Bring New Supercomputing Lab to Belgium 

Computing and biotechnology experts from industry and academia alike are coming together in Belgium to create the ExaScience Life Lab, whose goal will be to advance supercomputing for applications in genomics to cell and tissue simulations.

The lab, which will bring together Imec, Intel, Janssen Pharmaceutica and five Flemish universities, will be based in Imec’s campus in Leuven to combine Intel’s supercomputing know-how with Flanders’ extensive background in life sciences. The facility will be an extension of Intel’s ExaScience Lab for High Performance Computing that opened at Imec in 2010.

“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,” said Flemish Minister of Innovation Ingrid Lieten. “To achieve this, the ExaScience Life Lab will work closely with the Flemish Supercomputer Centre."

Along with the University of Antwerp, University of Ghent, University of Leuven, University of Hasselt and Vrije University Brussels, the collaborators hope that through their work high performance computing will soon become as vital as lab research.

“Once operational, the ExaScience Life Lab will be our European center of excellence for high performance computing in the life sciences,” said Intel lab manager Luc Provoost. “We expect the lab’s joint research and development efforts to lead to major breakthroughs in the use of supercomputing for bioscientific applications.”

To focus on increasing the volume of research within the life sciences, Imec has turned to supercomputing to both accelerate genome sequencing and replace wet-lab testing on cells and tissues. Imec says that by turning to a computing solution, researchers are expected to cut down on expenses as well as the time necessary to reach their goals.

Although genome sequencing has come a long way since the early days of the Human Genome Project, which required 13 years to map the human genome, Imec says that we haven’t yet reached the ultimate goal. Currently, processing entire genome sequences has been cut down to about 48 hours, but the ExaScience Life Lab team hopes to shave that time down even further.

“[W]ith the expected explosion of genome data becoming available in the coming years, it is crucial to improve the efficiency of the computing process,” Imec said.

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