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News 1999

March 16, 1999

Canada's most powerful supercomputer now at SickKids

TORONTO - The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) today unveiled a state-of-the-art supercomputer that will allow scientists to dramatically accelerate research into diseases that affect children. The hospital's new Silicon Graphics Origin 2000 is the most powerful supercomputer of its type in Canada and the largest in the world devoted exclusively to health and biological research in the public sector.

"The Origin 2000 supercomputer will be an extremely powerful tool for researchers not only at SickKids but across the country," says Dr. Jamie Cuticchia, head of the Bioinformatics program at SickKids. "It has also become a necessity, considering the vast amounts of information being generated by research programs such as the Human Genome Project, the international scientific effort to decode the complete genetic material of humans."

Dr. Cuticchia estimates that in this year alone, the world's researchers will produce more scientific data in the life sciences than has been previously generated in all of human history. The emerging science of bioinformatics - the use of information technology to answer complex biological questions - will help turn these large quantities of data into knowledge that can be used to improve diagnosis and treatment of childhood diseases.

A job that would take the fastest PC currently on the market three months to complete will take just a few minutes on the Origin 2000.

"We will use the Origin 2000 initially for research in two key areas: searching for similarities in gene sequences and developing three-dimensional models of human proteins, the products of genes," explains Dr. Cuticchia. "These two areas of research will generate fundamentally important information. Understanding the structure of a human protein can help us design more effective drugs. The ability to rapidly compare gene sequences can be applied in areas as diverse as gene discovery and diagnostics."

The Origin 2000 has 64 MIPS R10000 processors, 16 gigabytes of memory and close to a terabyte (one trillion bytes) of disk space. The Origin 2000 takes up 28 square feet in its own climate-controlled room. As it generates 125,000 BTUs of heat, a 10-ton air conditioning unit (the average house has a 1-ton unit) is used to maintain a constant room temperature. Its independent power supply is backed up by two UPS units that weigh 800 pounds each.

The $4.2 million supercomputer arrived at the hospital in January and took six weeks to install. It is now ready to begin its work.

"The acquisition of this amazing technology is made possible by an anonymous donor and an investment of approximately $1.4 million by Silicon Graphics Canada," says Michael Strofolino, the Hospital's President and CEO. "I am confident that our partnership with them will lead to extraordinary advances not only at Sick Kids but at the many other centres who will be able to access this incredible resource."

"Almost overnight the volume and complexity of biological information has grown exponentially,"explains David Wharry, President of Silicon Graphics Canada. "At the same time, the ability to organize and distribute information for a diverse worldwide scientific community using a broad range of computer environments has become essential to gaining insight and new discoveries. To help meet these challenges, Silicon Graphics is advancing its commitment to bring the fastest, most expandable, most flexible computing systems to the world's bioinformatics teams. On behalf of the employees of Silicon Graphics Canada, and in recognition of world leadership at The Hospital for Sick Children, it is our privilege to work in partnership with this discovery bound team and co-invest in support of their future success."

For more information, please contact:

Public Affairs
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue
Suite 1742, Public Affairs, First floor Atrium
Toronto, ON
M5G 1X8
Phone: 416-813-5058
Fax: 416-813-5328

For questions or comments contact the TCAG Manager,

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