Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center Will Host Specialized Machine for Biomolecular Research

Issue Date: 
June 7, 2010

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded a two-year, $2.7 million grant to the National Resource for Biomedical Supercomputing at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to host a specialized supercomputer for biomolecular simulation.

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is a joint venture between Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh together with Westinghouse Electric Company. Established in 1986, the center receives support from several federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and private industry.

The supercomputer, named Anton, and its novel algorithms were designed by a team of researchers led by David E. Shaw, chief scientist of New York-based D. E. Shaw Research. The supercomputer will be available without cost for noncommercial research use by universities and other nonprofit institutions.

Anton was designed to dramatically increase the speed of molecular dynamics simulations so biomedical researchers can better understand the motions and interactions of proteins and other biologically important molecules.

The National Resource for Biomedical Supercomputing will soon invite U.S. biomedical researchers to submit proposals for time allocations on Anton. A peer review committee will be convened by the National Research Council to review proposals. Although the NIH has supported individual scientists’ molecular dynamics research for many years, it has not provided funds to make a supercomputing system for molecular dynamics simulations available as a national resource. Additional information about proposal submission is available at www.nrbsc.org/anton_rfp.

“This is an incredibly exciting project in many ways,” said Joel Stiles, director of the National Resource for Biomedical Supercomputing and a faculty member in biological sciences and the Lane Center for Computational Biology at Carnegie Mellon University. “With this very generous gift from D.E. Shaw Research and the funding provided by NIH, we are deploying a tool of unprecedented power for the benefit of biomedical researchers nationally. We hope and expect that this project will help to significantly advance our understanding of biomolecular structure and function.”

As part of the NIGMS award, the National Resource for Biomedical Supercomputing also will install a new data storage and analysis subsystem, including nearly half a petabyte of online disk capacity (one petabyte is one million gigabytes).

The award is one of 14 made by NIGMS using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for projects that the NIH views as “grand opportunities” for major scientific progress. “The Grand Opportunities grants fund projects that promise to have a significant impact on a field of biomedical science,” said NIGMS Director Jeremy M. Berg. “By closing specific knowledge gaps, creating new technologies, or building community-wide resources, these awards will dramatically propel progress in key scientific fields.”