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SickKids, UHN Pilot New Cloud Infrastructure for Healthcare

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Canada's Hospital for Sick Children and the University Health Network's Princess Margaret Cancer Centre are piloting a new IT infrastructure that will provide Canadian researchers and clinicians with secure cloud-based computing for analyzing genetic and other kinds of biomedical data.

The High Performance Computing for Health Sciences, or HPC4Health, provides shared computational power to analyze terabytes of biomedical data from fields such as genetics and medical imaging for scientific discovery, diagnosis, and therapy identification in a manner that satisfies personal health information privacy requirements.

The resource will "enable hospitals across Ontario to leverage expertise across institutions, improve diagnostics and lessen the burden on the healthcare system," Dan Sinai, chairman of Compute Ontario, one of the project's supporters, said in a statement. HPC4Health operates under "a resource-sharing model to increase efficiencies not only to operating budgets, but also to help clinicians analyze patient tests faster," Michael Brudno, director of the Centre for Computational Medicine at SickKids and associate professor in University of Toronto's computer science department, added.

Access to the resource expands "our ability to handle data coming through existing genomics sequencing platforms by at least 10-fold in the first phase of the project," Carl Virtanen, the bioinformatics manager at UHN's Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, noted. He added that HPC4Health will enable the center to "process large and complex datasets in just hours, as opposed to the current computational process time of weeks."

The HPC4Health infrastructure will be housed at and maintained by staff at the Scalar Decisions Datacentre at SickKids' Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning. This service will operate under a membership model that will allow participating partner hospitals to share resources, including access to temporary storage of sensitive data, as well as dedicated staff with expertise in biomedical research. HPC4Health will initially be available to hospitals in Toronto but will eventually be expanded to include healthcare organizations throughout Ontario and across Canada, the Hospital for Sick Children and UHN said.

HPC4Health is Compute Canada’s first health network node. Compute Canada coordinates and promotes the use of high performance computing in Canadian research to advance scientific knowledge and innovation.