Vital-IT is an innovative life science informatics initiative providing computational resources, consultancy and training to connect fundamental and applied research. It is a collaboration between the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB), the Universities of Lausanne and Geneva, the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), and industrial partners. These partners form an unrivalled alliance of expertise in the processing and analysis of biological information. Vital-IT provides as well Web server offering access to a range of databases, software tools and services. Vital-IT helps to support postgraduate educations through training sessions and workshops in a coordinated manner with several SIB and institutional partners.
While groups working in life sciences produce ever increasing amounts of data, and formulate more and more complex models to help explain biological function and behaviour, access to the required high-performance computing expertise is still scant. Vital-IT provides infrastructure and computational expertise to support research conducted primarily by its partners, and develops hardware and software solutions to allow research results to be turned into marketable products. Additionally, the group serves as an interface between academic research and the commercial world.
Projects and Services
The main activities of Vital-IT are:
- Providing a high-performance computing environment to support the research work of its partners in areas ranging from sequence analysis through molecular modelling to image processing.
- Developing specialist software engineering techniques for parallelization, optimization and validation of complex algorithms.
- Development activities to turn concepts derived from research into robust software solutions.
- Consulting and educational activities geared towards the computational needs of companies in the life sciences.
- Acting as an agent for new collaborations with industry, with potential for spinning off new companies in the field of life-science informatics.
Providing computational facilities
Vital-IT manages several large Linux clusters: a development cluster of 12 IntelÂ® ItaniumÂ® processors, and three production clusters, one of 64 Itanium processors, one of 64 Intel 64-bit XeonÂ® processors, and one of 128 dual-core 64-bit XeonÂ® processors, providing more than 2 Teraflops peak performance and more than 40 TB disk storage capacity. The infrastructure also includes several database servers and two large shared memory machines.
Developing innovative, validated, robust software
Vital-IT works with its academic partners to ensure that any software developed by the group meets quality assurance, maintainability, and portability requirements. Its particular expertise is in validating software across multiple platforms, where differences in machine architectures, floating point representations, compilers, etc., lead to portability issues, and where careful optimization is needed to avoid subtle problems.
Working with an extended research community
Research is carried out by Vital-ITâ€™s partner institutions, including the "PÃ´le de GÃ©nomique Fonctionnelle" formed by the universities in the Lake Geneva area. Each collaborates with industrial partners (in bioengineering, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, food science, chemistry, software, and IT) and some also work closely with nearby science parks. Vital-IT's excellent scientific environment makes it attractive to potential partners and provides opportunities for collaboration between them.
Vital-IT aims to turn concepts derived from research into robust, commercially viable software solutions. We also collaborate with entrepreneurs, academic technology transfer organizations, regional and national development agencies, and the venture finance community to create new products and companies in the field of computational biology.
Training and education
Vital-IT organises week-long and single day courses and workshops each year from a portofolio of basic and advanced trainings. These trainings are coordinated in close collaboration with the SIB Doctoral School and national postgraduate and graduate education associations.
Website for Further Information
Vital-IT High Performance Computing Group http://www.vital-it.ch/