SACS supercomputer to power research and education across Meharry

driving biomedical research at Meharry

The path to health care advancements like personalized medicine and quicker, cheaper drug discovery lies in a web of massive health data. Valuable insights can be drawn from electronic health records, genomic, mobile health, and other data sources.  It is a complex process that involves data preparation and then building, running, and testing algorithms.

It requires a high-performance computing cluster, or supercomputer.

With the supercomputer addition to the data resources of the School of Applied Computational Sciences, Meharry Medical College is positioned to take a giant step forward in improving clinical care, innovative research and health care education.

The four-node, high-performance cluster provides both high level and parallel processing of information that is essential to organizing data and then applying machine learning models to draw insights from it.

Dr. Ashutosh Singhal

“We have always had data. But high performance computing is essential to analyzing and learning from that data,” says Dr. Ashutosh Singhal, medical research, development and strategy director. “Our high-performance computer opens new doors for building machine learning models and improving patient care and advancing research.”

Empowering discovery across Meharry

Dr. Vibhuti Gupta, assistant professor of computer science and data science, is using the supercomputer to develop algorithms and to perform data-intensive tasks for his American Cancer Society funded project to develop tools to improve virus detection in cancer genomes through deep learning.

The supercomputer also has great potential to drive discovery through partnerships across Meharry.

Data science is an interdisciplinary field that is most impactful through a collaborative process. A supercomputer, using data science models, enables a research scientist to apply vast data to their work that cannot exist in their lab.

“For example, a scientist may believe that a gene is a biomarker based on the research in their lab,” says Dr. Singhal. “But we don’t know if that also applies to patients unless we also explore clinical data.”

A data scientist, through high-performance computing, adds insight from clinical data to lab research to create a dataset that generates much more information than either researcher would find on their own.

Impact on health care education at Meharry

The supercomputer and its data science applications are also important to the educational experience. Physicians will continue to benefit from machine learning models that lead to the early detection and prediction of disease and other improvements in clinical care outcomes. It is important that Meharry students are exposed to the latest technologies that they will experience as professionals.

Likewise, public health students will greatly benefit from learning how data from different sources can be combined and used for building models to easily understand how a disease is spreading in a particular area. A student in the basic sciences should also learn how a supercomputer helps open new possibilities for drug discovery by drawing insights from biomedical or clinical informatics.

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