The Florida State University has entered into a first-of-its-kind agreement with Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies that will grant the biomedical research center access to an incredibly powerful array of computers at the university. Using the computers, Torrey Pines will conduct highly complex computational analyses that are a critical step in developing new treatments for a variety of diseases.
With the $22,000 contract, Port St. Lucie-based Torrey Pines becomes the first organization outside of the university to make use of its High Performance Computing Center, established in 2007 and located on Florida State’s Southwest Campus in Tallahassee. The agreement also marks a significant step forward in relations between Florida’s public universities and its fledgling biomedical industry.
“This shows the important role that our universities, and Florida State in particular, play in attracting and retaining biotechnology companies in the state of Florida,” said Kirby Kemper, Florida State’s vice president for Research. “Resources such as the High Performance Computing Center are valuable both as tools for scientific innovation and as engines that drive economic development in our state.”
The Florida State University established the High Performance Computing Center (www.hpc.fsu.edu) in 2007 to foster a wide range of research designed to benefit society. For example, some university researchers have used the center to simulate forest fire patterns with the goal of helping firefighters better predict their behavior, while others have performed high-resolution modeling to gain a better understanding of the movement of storm systems in the Gulf of Mexico.
With 15.1 TeraFLOPS of throughput, the High Performance Computing Center is among the most powerful academic computing systems in the southeastern United States. (A TeraFLOP equals 1 trillion instructions or operations processed by the computer in a single second.)
“The fact that Torrey Pines has committed to the use of our high-performance computing facility is an excellent indication that the center itself and the support provided by Florida State’s Department of Scientific Computing are valuable tools for companies involved in cutting-edge research,” said Jim Wilgenbusch, the department’s associate director for computing and director of the High Performance Computing Center. “We hope that this is the first of many such collaborations.”
Max Gunzburger, chairman of the Department of Scientific Computing, said the Torrey Pines agreement was months in the making.
“They first contacted us because Florida State has an excellent reputation for supporting leading-edge computational science and computing infrastructures,” he said. “After we met with (Torrey Pines President) Richard Houghten, the department arranged to host several of their computational chemists so that they would have an opportunity to meet some of our faculty who are working on similar problems and talk with staff members at the High Performance Computing Center.
“Torrey Pines liked what they saw and were then given an opportunity to evaluate the suitability of the center for their own research,” Gunzburger said. “It didn’t take long for their scientists to determine that the center would be an excellent fit for their needs, which led to the current usage contract.”
Kemper said that the agreement “provides a common research platform that will facilitate interactions and collaborations between Torrey Pines scientists and our own researchers. It also benefits our students by providing new opportunities for training and potentially for careers in the biomedical industry.”