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National Resource for Biomedical Supercomputing

Micheal J. Levine, Ph.D

Center Overview

The National Resource for Biomedical Supercomputing (NRBSC) pursues leading edge research in the life sciences utilizing high performance computing, and fosters exchange between expertise in computational science at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and biomedical researchers nationwide. NRBSC's focus is two-fold: computational biomedical research and outreach to the national biomedical research community through education and publications. Research at NRBSC is centered in three areas: cell modeling with a focus on investigating neural function; large scale volumetric image registration, visualization and analysis; and computational structural biology. NRBSC's training and outreach effort includes not only user training, but also software distribution, publications, and other novel outreach activities such as on-line video tutorials.

Impact on Human Health

The mission of the NRBSC is to advance our understanding of fundamental biological processes by developing computational approaches for modeling at multiple scales. Such an integrated and holistic approach is crucial to bridge the vast gaps in time and length scales at which biological events take place and which no single computational approach can model in its entirety. Our long-term vision is development of integrated methods that eventually will have a large impact on personalized medicine.

NRBSC is a leader in the design of computational algorithms, software and novel scientific approaches. At the tissue level we develop computational methods that help scientists with the processing of large biological volumetric image data sets. In an ongoing collaboration with Harvard Medical School we recently registered and assembled a 10 Teravoxel image data volume of mouse visual cortex. This allowed tracing and study of neural connectivities (connectomics) with important implications for our knowledge of brain function. At the cell level NRBSC develops simulation and analysis tools to study synaptic structure and function. Since many neurological disorders directly involve synapses, their study is crucial for advancing our ability to find new and more effective treatments. Lastly, at the microscopic level NRBSC develops simulation methods to enable detailed investigations of biomolecules and their mode of operation allowing a better understanding of pathological conditions and possible treatments.

Since NRBSC makes all these multiscale modeling tools freely available to the national biomedical community and also features a strong outreach program comprising, e.g., workshops, on-line tutorials, and student training NRBSC's impact on improving human health is of truly national scale.