Genomics Computing Resources

Genomics Computing Resources

Texas Biomed's "computer ranch" is the world's largest computing cluster devoted to human genetic and genomic research.

With an estimated 30,000 genes containing 3 billion base pairs of DNA in the human genome, finding the genes that influence our susceptibility to disease is a monumental task, part of which includes complicated statistical analyses of genetic data from large family groups. As one can imagine, these analyses can be incredibly labor intensive and time consuming, but they have been made easier and faster by the world-renowned team of statistical geneticists at Texas Biomed.

The development of new statistical methods for genetic epidemiological research, and in particular for genetic linkage analysis, has been a long-term and highly successful focus of research in Texas Biomed's Department of Genetics. Departmental scientists were the first to perform statistical genetic analyses in parallel using a computer cluster, partitioning complex analyses among different computers in order to increase the speed with which those analyses could be completed.

Today, Texas Biomed is home to the world's largest computer cluster for human genetic and genomic research. Housed in the AT&T Genomics Computing Center, which was dedicated in June 2003, Texas Biomed's "computer ranch" currently contains 3,000 computer processors working in parallel to crunch out the data necessary to help scientists find disease-influencing genes. While this resource has room to grow, it already has dramatically increased the speed at which scientists can complete their research. Complicated analyses that once took months can now be completed in minutes, greatly increasing the power of discovery for Texas Biomed geneticists – and their more than 200 collaborators at 80 institutions worldwide. Another 5,004 processors were added in 2010.

AT&T Genomics Computing Center

The AT&T Genomics Computing Center

The very methods employed by these computers also were designed by Texas Biomed scientists. The Institute's statistical genetics group, led by Dr. John Blangero, uses novel mathematical methods that take advantage of genetic information inherent in large extended families. With grant funding from the NIH's National Institute for Mental Health, they incorporated those methods in a computer software package known as SOLAR (Sequential Oligogenic Linkage Analysis Routines), which is now registered to more than 2,300 users worldwide to analyze data obtained from large families in which diseases appear to be inherited. The SOLAR software is freely distributed through Texas Biomed's Web site.