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Wash U to Use $14M ARRA Grant to Double Size, Capacity of Genomics Data Center

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Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis said this week that it will use a $14.3 million grant from the National Center of Research Resources to double the size of its genomics data center to 32,000 square feet.

The grant, awarded earlier this year under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, brings Wash U's total ARRA funding to approximately $100 million.

In 2007, Wash U's Genome Sequencing Center began building an $11 million, 16,000-square-foot genomics data center that was completed the following year [BioInform 11-9-2007]. The existing facility houses approximately 5,000 processors and more than 5 petabytes of disk storage and is nearly 90 percent full, according to David Dooling, who oversees several informatics groups at the Genome Center and described the expanded center this week on his blog.

Richard Wilson, director of the Wash U Genome Center, told BioInform sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News that the details for the center's expanded computational capacity have not yet been finalized and will depend largely on the capabilities of new sequencing technologies.

"You want to be able to respond to trends in sequencing technology development, and you want to also be able to take advantage of the trends in informatics hardware improvement and development. As we get closer to the point of actually starting to fill the building with gear, then we'll have a much better idea of which direction to go," Wilson said.

He added that "it will take a couple of years to actually put all the gear in there."

According to a grant abstract for the award, obtaining sequence data "is becoming cheaper and faster, but the bioinformatics, analysis, and data processing and storage requirements are growing at an exponential rate" that is "rapidly outstripping our current data center capacity."

The grant abstract seeks funding to accommodate "an additional 120 racks of high-density computing and storage systems."

At the Future of Genomic Medicine Conference sponsored by the Scripps Translational Research Institute last week, Elaine Mardis, co-director of the Genome Center, noted that the current data center is "filled out" and said that she and her colleagues are looking into alternative computational models, like cloud computing, to meet the growing demand for sequence data analysis.

Construction for the expanded facility is expected to begin in the fall.

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