Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Thursday, August 17, 2017
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Sidra Medical Center’s Genome Program to Support National Personalized Healthcare Therapies in Qatar 

Sidra Medical and Research Center

Billed as one of the largest national genome medical research projects in the world, Sidra Medical and Research Center in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, in partnership with IBM, has embarked on the Qatar Genome Program (QGP), an effort to collect and perform analytics on genomic profiles of hundreds of thousands of Qatari citizens.

The ultimate goal of the QGP is to develop personalized healthcare therapies for the Qatari population. Sidra is responsible for sequencing, analyzing and providing the data management for whole genome sequences. In partnership with IBM, Sidra has sequenced more than 3,000 samples in the first phase of the program and has begun sequencing and analysis for the program’s second phase.

Several IBM solutions have been implemented as part of Sidra’s analytics and data architecture, including:

  • IBM high-performance flash storage systems to accelerate access to critical meta data by the Sidra healthcare community;
  • IBM software-defined infrastructures, a workload and resource manager for big data analytics and for scaling up capabilities to manage HPC analytics involving hundreds of thousands of jobs and large amounts of data.

Dr. Mohamed-Ramzi Temanni, manager, bioinformatics technical group at Sidra Medical and Research Center, said the combined Sidra and IBM effort “is unique – it was a joint collaboration between our bioinformatics experts who led the complex analysis component and built the pipelines while IBM customized the system to ensure best performance and ease of use. Analyzing hundreds of samples in parallel on a regular basis requires a robust HPC system to handle the load properly. From our experience, IBM systems has proven to be reliable in helping us address this technical requirement.”

Performing analysis on each sample – and each sample amounts to between 60 and 100 Gbytes per subject – takes between two to seven days, according to Sidra. Failure at any point in the data analysis process can be costly, requiring each job to start over. Dr. Temanni told EnterpriseTech, the risk of failure puts a priority for Sidra on high reliability to manage the application pipeline.

Since the deployment of the IBM storage and infrastructure platform, Sidra has completed hundreds of thousands of computing tasks comprising millions of files and directories without, according to Dr. Temanni, experiencing system downtime. He added that Sidra completed its Phase 1 project requirements ahead of schedule.

“Sidra’s remit for the Qatar Genome Program is an ambitious genomics medical research project in terms of compute and data scope,” said Dr. Robert Eades, research advisor, IBM Middle East & Africa. “To most effectively manage and analyze a large number of whole genome sequences for population genomics, Sidra chose IBM as one of its key players to build a long-term technology foundation for medical analytics research at this scale.”

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