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IBM and ETH Zurich Use Cloud Computing to Combat Increasingly Resistant Bacteria

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Fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the cloud Fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the cloud

Researchers Analyze Disease-causing Proteins in Record Time

IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced researchers from science and technology university ETH Zurich and CloudBroker, a high-performance cloud computing company, have partnered with IBM to use cloud computing technology to conduct cutting-edge research focused on developing new antibiotics to fight disease. 

According to the World Health Organization, the number of antimicrobial resistant pathogens is increasing dramatically, threatening treatments to tuberculosis, malaria and other now common illnesses caused by various bacteria. The study of bacterial proteins has become increasingly important as understanding the complex elements of bacteria can play a vital role in determining risks and determining drugs that can fight resistant strands.

Using IBM's SmartCloud Enterprise and an enhanced queuing and data management solution provided by CloudBroker, researchers from ETH Zurich's Institute of Molecular Systems Biology were able to identify nearly 250 potential virulence factors -- or molecules that are secreted by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or protozoa and then multiply within humans -- and create nearly 2.3 million three-dimensional models with nearly 30,000 background data packets to study the function of these harmful, disease causing pathogens.

Using the IBM Smart Cloud Enterprise, the team had access to almost 250,000 computing hours on a total of 1,000 parallel CPU's producing research on the structure of specific proteins found in the streptococcus bacteria which commonly causes strep throat in humans.

The open-source software Rosetta, which predicts and designs protein structures, protein folding mechanisms, and protein-protein interactions, was also deployed on the cloud. Through the use of these various technologies provided by IBM and CloudBroker, researchers were able to analyze the massive amount of data within two weeks, a task that would have taken several months without the use of IBM's  cloud computing technologies.

"For our experiments, we need very high capacity in short time frames," said Dr. Lars Malmstrom, ETH Zurich's lead researcher. "Cloud computing allows to reserve this computing capacity whenever researchers need it, and it is available quickly. Research teams do not need to set it up or maintain it, and thus can concentrate better on their research."

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