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Startups GridComputing and ClusterSolutions toCo-DevelopBioinformaticsPlatform

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ClusterSolutions has penned a deal with GridComputing to jointly develop ClusterSolutions’ proprietary supercomputing architecture so that it can be used to accelerate genomic, proteomic, and pharmaceutical research and development.

Ralf Gruber, ClusterSolutions’ founder and namesake of the Gruber Gamma Factor supercomputing architecture, said the deal would leverage his company’s expertise in developing clustered supercomputing platforms as well as GridComputing’s bioinformatics sales, marketing, and product development talents.

Gamma Factor allows researchers to customize their supercomputers by changing the design and configuration of the network and hardware components to support specific applications. The collaborative agreement is an outgrowth of a joint supercomputing cluster development project the two Swiss startups recently completed for Geneva Proteomics.

Both ClusterSolutions and GridComputing are commercial spin-offs of the École Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, the French-language counterpart of Zurich’s ETH.

ClusterSolutions was born out of the EPFL’s T-1 development project, which involved developing a supercomputer cluster as an alternative to upgrading the institution’s existing Cray T3D MPP supercomputer.

EPFL wanted to “go to the next type of new architecture” — one seen as more in-line with the current path of supercomputer R&D work and its own future computing and networking needs, said Gruber, noting that ClusterSolutions worked with Sandia, Compaq, and Supercomputing Systems of Switzerland on the project.

GridComputing was established last year as a bioinformatics consultancy, sales, marketing, and distribution company.

GridComputing is now using EPFL’s platform to demo systems for prospective clients, as well as to develop, test, and benchmark its own and third-party genomic and proteomic R&D applications and archiving systems.

With EPFL’s T-1 up and running and Geneva Proteomics as a solid, prospective first client, GridComputing and ClusterSolutions see their collaboration as a step toward building what they hope will evolve into a full-blown outsourcing service that will be used by pharmaceutical, genomic, and proteomic research and development labs in Europe and the US.

Market analysts forecast that bioinformatics services market will grow to $2 billion in revenues by 2002.

“Our plan is to capture a share of this market…approximately two percent for profitability,” said Alain Reiser, GridComputing’s co-CEO.

With a growing number of pharmaceutical companies and IT developers, such as Blackstone Computing, Paralogic, and Silicon Graphics International, looking to customize and apply super- computer cluster technology in the bioinformatics market space, Gruber noted that, “The market is growing incredibly; it’s explosive…but it is young and the technology is new. These small groups have to develop. In two years we will see who is surviving, at least that’s my view.”

—AB

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