Mainframes in our cultural DNA: gone today, here tomorrow?

The detail of our individual genetic makeup is already being used to make diagnoses and treatment decisions, albeit in a slow and cumbersome way. The sheer scale of the computational horsepower that doing this in real time will demand, promises to bring the hulking mainframe computer back from the grave.

You could argue that the room-sized mainframes of yesteryear never really went away. Distinguishing between those antiquated metal beasts and today’s sprawling datacenters, vast halls filled with countless racks of servers, or with the almost identical-looking supercomputers that are used by scientific researchers, is probably more a matter of semantics than anything else.

What becomes clear from the presentation in this video, is that using genomic data for routine real-time healthcare (something we simply do not have the science or technology to do at the moment) is going to bring the mainframe-sized supercomputer (which is in some ways a much closer relative of the mainframe of old than it is to such things as the servers that we use when we go online) into our soon-to-be ever more genomically medi(c)ated lives.

The presentation was called:

Real-time genomics — distant reality or right around the corner?

It was given by Professor Victor Jongeneel at the 2011 annual meeting of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) Private Sector Program

The theme of the meeting held on May 3-5 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was Virtual Realism

Victor Jongeneel is a Senior Research Scientist, NCSA & Director of Bioinformatics Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois.

Here’s a resume  from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland:

Victor Jongeneel was trained as a biologist at the University of Lausanne. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in Microbiology and Immunology.

He went on to do post-doctoral work in molecular virology with Bruce Alberts at the University of California, San Francisco, and with Bernhard Hirt at ISREC in Epalinges. From 1986 to 1997, he was a group leader at the Lausanne Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, working on the genetics and regulation of the tumour necrosis factor locus.

From 1998 to 2006 he was the Director of the Office of Information Technology of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, and from 2003 to 2007 of the Vital-IT high-performance computing facility of the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics. He is one of the founding members of the SIB, and was its first director. He is now Vice-President for Research at the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia while also leading a research group at the Ludwig Institute in Lausanne.