Optalysys and Earlham Institute demonstrate results of breakthrough Optical Processing for Sequence Alignment

30 August 2017

NORWICH, U.K. – 30 August 2017—Optalysys Ltd. (@Optalysys), a start-up pioneering the development of light-speed optical co-processors, will demonstrate the latest prototype of its breakthrough technology for genomic searching at the Genome 10k / Genome Science conference. Optalysys partner, Earlham Institute (EI), will present the latest sequence alignment results produced using the prototype at the conference.

The presentation will be delivered today, 30 August, and will be followed by the demonstration on 31 August, at the Genome 10K and Genome Science 2017 Conference, Norwich Research
Park, Norwich, U.K. The conference runs from 29 August through 1 September.

The technology employs a novel correlation-based approach to the task of aligning sequenced reads to a reference sequence. Early tests indicate the technology is capable of a high sensitivity of alignments.  Furthermore the technology allows multiple read sizes to be used, from standard lengths up to next generation read length sizes of thousands of bases.

Genomic alignment is the first of many application areas being targeted by Optalysys. The company  envisions the technology being integrated with standard computer systems across a range of demanding industrial and scientific areas that are becoming limited by the slow-down of progression in electronic computing.

“Ultimately, we want even the smallest research teams to be able to harness the power of high-speed computing previously available only to large centres,” says Dr. Nick New, CEO of Optalysys. “The ability to provide supercomputing levels of processing performance to a much wider audience of scientists and researchers can have a huge impact on a number of fields – and genetics is a perfect example of an industry which is expanding much faster than traditional computing methods can support.”

Dr. Daniel Mapleson, analysis pipelines project leader at EI, will present the team’s results from alignments produced by Optalysys' prototype. These indicate that it is capable of high sensitivity, suggesting that the system could be used for applications where more distantly related sequences with higher rates of polymorphism need to be aligned. This is traditionally the domain where software algorithm BLAST is currently used.
"Optalysys' technology provides the possibility to link high-sensitivity alignments with high-throughput," says Dr. Daniel Mapleson. “Running conventional tools capable of high sensitivity for the large datasets being produced by our sequencing devices comes at great computational cost, both in terms of time and energy usage.”

Dr. Timothy Stitt, head of Scientific Computing at EI, added, “As bioinformaticians increasingly fear being overwhelmed by the deluge of data from low-cost, high-throughput sequencing platforms, it’s critical that breakthrough technologies such as Optalysys are impending, to overcome the limitations of traditional computing technologies.  With projections on the order of 90% power-efficiency over existing processor solutions, Optalysys technology is a dream come true for infrastructure managers and those promoting environmentally-friendly HPC.”

Optalysys’ breakthrough sequence alignment technology is based on an established diffractive optical approach that uses low-power laser light in place of electricity for processing. This inherently parallel method enables increased processing capacity that is highly scalable. This week’s demonstration is the final prototype before Optalysys launches a commercially available version in early 2018.

Additional details about the presentation and prototype demo can be found below.

What: "Sequence alignment using optical correlation” (paper)
When: 16.30 (BST) Wednesday, 30 August
Where: Genome 10K and Genome Science 2017 Conference, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, U.K.
Who: Dr. Daniel Mapelson, analysis pipeline project leader, Earlham Institute
Demo: 12.30-13.30 (BST) Thursday, 31 August, Optalysys, Poster #P18

For more information about the Genome 10K and Genome Science 2017 Conference, please visit: http://www.earlham.staging.versantus.co.uk/genome-10k-and-genome-science-conference

Notes to editors.

Notes to editors.

For more information, please contact:

Margaret Pereira
Karbo Communications for Optalysys Ltd.

  • +1 (925) 989-8109

Stuart Catchpole

Head of Business Development and Communications, Earlham Institute (EI)

  • +44 (0)1603 450 813


About Optalysys

Optalysys is developing optical high performance computing systems that have the potential to exceed what can be achieved with electronics at a fraction of the cost and energy consumption.

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.


Tags: Sequencing