Million U.Va.-IBM Initiative Powers Up Biomedical Research
January 30, 2003--
A $1.5 million U.Va.-IBM research initiative will enhance
the efforts of biomedical engineers at the University of Virginia
to grow replacement tissue, improve ultrasound and MRI technology,
and learn about the progress of vascular disease.
initiative was made possible through a Shared University Research
award from IBM and will benefit several U.Va. research projects
in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, which is jointly sponsored
by the schools of medicine and engineering.
IBM SUR program matches IBM interests with the University’s
growing needs for data storage and analysis. At U.Va., the project
will be supported by contributions of $250,000 each from the School
of Medicine and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The
Office of Information Technology and Communication is providing
an additional $500,000 in infrastructure and technical support.
scientists at the University of Virginia are undertaking important
research across a broad spectrum of disciplines,” said Dave
Turek, vice president, IBM Linux clusters and Grid solutions. “The
power and reliability of the IBM eServer Linux clusters can greatly
accelerate the depth and accuracy of their projects.”
Shared University Research program connects university researchers
with IBM units -- such as IBM Research, IBM Life Sciences, IBM Global
Services -- and product development labs focusing on identifying
future markets for IBM products.
IBM initiative offers U.Va. researchers the potential to make significant
contributions in a vital field of medical technology and very likely,
save lives,” said Richard Miksad, dean of the School of Engineering
and Applied Science.
equipment for the supercomputing initiative will be arriving shortly.
It includes 48 IBM eServer x335 systems for the main Linux cluster,
IBM Linear Tape Open (LTO) tape systems for an automated data archive
and workstations with advanced graphics. A second Linux cluster
with eight eServer x335 systems will be dedicated to magnetic resonance
imaging – MRI – research scanners in the U.Va. Health
System. IBM also is providing an IBM FastT storage server for high-speed
data storage and retrieval.
the help of IBM, our faculty in biomedical engineering, radiology
and cardiology will advance MRI technology to make it more efficient,
improving diagnostic capabilities and patient care,” said
Arthur Garson Jr., U.Va. vice president and dean of the School of
Medicine. “If we can give physicians more immediate access
to MRI information, our patients will benefit a great deal.”
Department of Biomedical Engineering, currently ranked 13th in the
country by U.S. News & World Report, believes the SUR initiative
will lend new momentum to research projects. Four projects, in particular,
will benefit from the vastly expanded data storage and analysis
capabilities made possible through the initiative.
Tracking the development of vascular disease.
Brian Helmke, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering,
studies the behavior of cells that line blood vessels. These cells
– endothelial cells – change their behavior in the
presence of arteriosclerosis – the thickening and hardening
of blood vessel walls – and plaque buildups along the walls.
Helmke wants to understand why and whether the change in cellular
behavior contributes to the progression of vascular disease.
To do this, he wants to make 3-D, digital, time-lapse movies of
the cells’ skeletons under different conditions and then
compare the images. The work requires massive data storage capabilities
as well as a means for retrieving the movies for later analysis.
The SUR project will meet both needs. For more information, contact
Brian Helmke by phone at (434) 924-1726, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creating sharper, faster MRI pictures. Craig
Meyer, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is working
to speed up magnetic resonance imaging. Currently the data is
gathered, stored and downloaded into still images while the patient
is immobilized. But Meyer wants to speed up the equipment enough
to capture a beating heart and present the physician with a moving
The second Linux cluster computer will expand Meyer’s ability
to capture and analyze data, enabling him to speed up the process.
For more information, contact Craig Meyer by phone at (434) 243-9495
or by email at email@example.com.
Building new tissue. Thomas Skalak, chairman
of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is one of several
senior researchers at U.Va. working on various aspects of tissue
engineering. Their goal is to fashion healthy new tissue –
such as bones, blood vessels, and kidneys – to replace old
tissue lost to damage or disease.
But sorting through thousands of possible genes and cells –
to find the right combination is a gargantuan task. Trying each
possible combination one at a time is impractical because of time
constraints. Which is where computational biology comes in.
The data storage and analysis capabilities of the cluster computer
will enable Skalak and his team to run through thousands of possible
combinations to identify the correct formula for a particular
type of tissue, allowing the researchers to move quickly to tissue
assembly. For more information, contact Thomas Skalak by phone
at (434) 924-0270, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
more nuanced ultrasound pictures. Bill Walker hates to
see perfectly good data go to waste. Walker, an assistant professor
of biomedical engineering, wants to improve the pictures created
by ultrasound machines. Currently, the information the machine receives
through its transducer – a candy-bar-sized device that is
passed over a patient’s skin – is bundled into a sketchy
picture of soft tissue that can be difficult to interpret.
By capturing and analyzing the echoes received by each of 128 miniature
receivers in the transducer, Walker believes he can create more
nuanced pictures. Currently, there is no way to capture and store
the added data streams. Walker has been working with support from
the National Science Foundation and Philips Medical Systems to change
that. They have constructed a system that will capture all of the
data streams, but in the process, have created a new problem for
themselves – how to manage the huge amount of data generated
by this system.
The answer will arrive shortly in the form of a cluster computer
through the IBM SUR project. The added data storage and analysis
capabilities will allow Walker to capture all the data streams to
create more nuanced pictures that are easier to interpret accurately.
Walker plans to immediately put this new technology into clinical
use. For more information, contact Bill Walker by phone at (434)
924-9950 or by email at email@example.com.
more information about the overall impact of the IBM SUR project
on biomedical research at U.Va., contact Thomas Skalak, chairman
of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, by phone at (434) 924-0270,
or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For technical information on
the computing capabilities added under the IBM SUR project, contact
Mitch Rosen, director of information technology for the School of
Engineering and Applied Science, by phone at (434) 924-1414, or
by email at email@example.com.
Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858 or IBM, Willow Christie, (914)