Earlham Institute receives supercomputing award for wheat research

15 November 2016

The Earlham Institute (EI) has been recognised in the annual HPCwire Readers’ and Editors’ Choice Awards for their high-performance computing bread wheat genome project, presented at the leading supercomputing event SC16 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Awarded for ‘Editors’ Choice - Best Use of HPC Application in Life Sciences’ the Earlham Institute (previously TGAC) has been accoladed for its research analysing the highly-complex wheat genome, using the SGI UV 300 - SGI's largest instance for life sciences.

EI uses state-of-the-art HPC platforms and bioinformatics software in response to the pressing global issue of food security. With one of the largest SGI UV 2000 instances worldwide (boasting 20TB of shared RAM) and the latest SGI UV 300 platform (including 32TB of NVMe SSD technology), EI crop researchers are able to assemble some of the largest and most complex genomes to date, including the 17Gb bread wheat genome, in a matter of weeks, compared to months for more traditional distributed-memory HPC systems. 

Currently, the staple crop faces unprecedented problems, including rising demand due to major population increases and urban mobility, global climate change, rising energy costs and land, water and nutrient limitations. With an estimated yearly production of 750 million tons, finding and implementing these solutions for wheat is a top priority for governments and scientists worldwide.

Head of Scientific Computing at EI Dr Tim Stitt on the prestigious award, said: “It’s fantastic to be recognised for our data-intensive computing capability in a public forum from such a popular publication in the HPC community. To win this award ahead of other great entries spanning  the worldwide HPC community is a tremendous achievement for our relatively small research institute in Norfolk, UK. This will definitely motivate our HPC team, and our partners such as SGI, to continue to push the boundaries of data-intensive computing in tackling the tremendous challenges around large and complex genome analysis to advance global food security and sustainability.

SGI Chief Operating Officer, Cassio Conceicao, added: “SGI is truly delighted that EI has won such a prestigious award in this increasingly competitive and fast growing sector of genomics applied research. This Editor’s award for ‘Best Use of HPC Application in Life Sciences’ provides compelling testimony to the outstanding research effort and capabilities on display at the research institute. We remain a proud partner to EI, having now provided several generations of large shared memory SGI UV architectures to help enable the Institute to tackle some of the world’s largest sustainability challenges--specifically food production. Congratulations!”

Winners were revealed at the HPCwire booth at the SC16 event, and on the HPCwire website, located at www.HPCwire.com.  

The coveted annual HPCwire Readers’ and Editors’ Choice Awards are determined through a nomination and voting process with the global HPCwire community, as well as selections from the HPCwire editors. The awards are an annual feature of the publication and constitute prestigious recognition from the HPC community. These awards are revealed each year to kick off the annual supercomputing conference, which showcases high-performance computing, networking, storage, and data analysis.

"From thought leaders to end users, the HPCwire readership reaches and engages every corner of the high-performance computing community," said Tom Tabor, CEO of Tabor Communications, publisher of HPCwire. "Receiving their recognition signifies community support across the entire HPC space as well as the breadth of industries it serves. We are proud to recognize these efforts and make the voices of our readers heard, and our congratulations go out to all the winners."


Notes to editors.

Notes to editors

1) More information on these awards can be found at the HPCwire website or on Twitter through the following hashtag: #HPCwireAwards.

2) Comment from Dr Matt Clark, Head of Technology Development at EI, on the complexity and size of the wheat genome: “Wheat is one of the most important crops in the world and production must keep up with population increases to avoid famine. Climate change and emerging diseases threaten current yields, actually increasing yields is a further challenge. New optimised wheat varieties could solve these problems, and wheat breeders are increasingly looking to modernise breeding techniques informed by the wheat genome to help them.

“Yet, the wheat genome is one of the most challenging in biology, over five times larger than human, as it actually contains three genomes; one each from the three very similar grass species that came together to make the bread wheat. Wheat contains many more genes than a human, but they are hidden among a sea of repetitive sequences which occur hundreds and thousands of times. Finding the genes, and assigning them to the correct original genome in the right order is like sorting needles and straws into the three original haystacks before they were mixed together. Fortunately, new sequencing and computational advances at Earlham Institute now make this possible, allowing wheat researchers and breeders to use the wheat genome sequence.


For more information, please contact:

Hayley London

Marketing & Communications Officer, Earlham Institute (EI)

  • +44 (0)1603 450 107


About Earlham Institute

The Earlham Institute (EI) is a world-leading research institute focusing on the development of genomics and computational biology. EI is based within the Norwich Research Park and is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) - £6.45M in 2015/2016 - as well as support from other research funders. EI operates a National Capability to promote the application of genomics and bioinformatics to advance bioscience research and innovation.

EI offers a state of the art DNA sequencing facility, unique by its operation of multiple complementary technologies for data generation. The Institute is a UK hub for innovative bioinformatics through research, analysis and interpretation of multiple, complex data sets. It hosts one of the largest computing hardware facilities dedicated to life science research in Europe. It is also actively involved in developing novel platforms to provide access to computational tools and processing capacity for multiple academic and industrial users and promoting applications of computational Bioscience. Additionally, the Institute offers a training programme through courses and workshops, and an outreach programme targeting key stakeholders, and wider public audiences through dialogue and science communication activities.


About HPCwire

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