Life Science Use of Purdue’s Research
Supercomputers Experiences Rapid Growth
Vikki Weake’s lab has its eyes on genes
involved in sight — and sight’s deterioration with aging — research that might
lead to new ways of prolonging the eyes’
“The eye is actually very accessible for
treatment,” notes Weake, a Purdue assistant professor of biochemistry.
The research involves sorting through
changes in tens of thousands of genes
from aging fruit flies, the lab’s model
organism, and millions of pieces of sequencing data from those genes. That’s
done, in part, with complex statistical models developed by Weake’s collaborator
Rebecca Doerge, Trent and Judith Anderson Distinguished Professor of Statistics.
“You’ve got to use very powerful computing,” Weake says.
Weake is one of a growing number of high-performance computing users from
the life sciences on campus, particularly with the advent of the new Snyder
cluster research supercomputer. From 2014 to 2015, nearly 100 new research
groups began using Purdue’s Community Cluster Program supercomputers, the
Research Data Depot data storage facility and related centralized resources from
ITaP Research Computing. There were large increases in use by agriculture (54
percent), health and human sciences (57 percent) and biology (44 percent) along
with new users in pharmacy and veterinary medicine.
ITaP built the Snyder cluster in 2015 at the same time it installed the new Rice
supercomputer. While Rice is geared to physical sciences and engineering
research, Snyder is designed for life sciences, including large memory capacity
and an appropriate software array, among other things.
Demand from faculty researchers has prompted ITaP Research Computing to expand
Snyder three times already and to add a life science support specialist to its staff.
Purdue’s Biochemistry Department purchased capacity in Snyder dedicated to use by
“Everything we need is already in the cluster and ready to go,” says Whitney
Dolan, a doctoral student in the lab of biochemistry Professor Clint Chapple
who’s studying ways to guide
plant development at the level of
genes and proteins, the better to
tailor plants for use in biofuels, for
example. Dolan also is a member
of Purdue’s Computational Life
For information about Snyder,
Rice, the Research Data Depot and
other research computing services
email firstname.lastname@example.org or
contact Preston Smith, ITaP’s
director of research services and
support, email@example.com or
Technology and Innovation
Licensing in Record Numbers
Purdue faculty entrepreneurs are licensing
innovations and partnering with industry in
record numbers. In fiscal years 2014 and 2015,
about 40 faculty members founded or co-founded a startup based on research in their
laboratories. Another nine Purdue technologies
were licensed to startups founded by Purdue
graduate students and/or independent entrepreneurs.
Some examples include:
; VinSense LLC co-founders David S. Ebert,
the Silicon Valley Professor of Electrical
and Computer Engineering; Christian E.
Butzke, professor of enology; and Phillip
Owens, associate professor of agronomy;
have collaborated to commercialize their
agricultural crop management software
and visualization system. The company
is working with vineyards in California,
Oregon and Washington to improve
grape growth, quality and harvests.
; Sherry Harbin, founder of GeniPhys LLC
and a professor of biomedical engineering, is developing tissue “building blocks”
called Collymers to support research and
medical applications. Her company is
already providing Collymers to medical
and research industries.
; Mobile Enerlytics LLC founder Y. Charlie
Hu, a professor of electrical and computer
engineering, is commercializing an
innovation that could reduce the energy
drain on smartphone batteries caused by
mobile apps. He is working with developers and companies to create more energy
efficient apps. ;
$2 Million Fund to Help Launch Plant Sciences Startups
A $2 million plant sciences innovation fund, supported through the Purdue Moves initiative, will
help launch startups based on Purdue plant sciences innovations. The fund, called “Ag-celerator,”
is designed to provide critical startup support for Purdue innovators who wish to commercialize
patented intellectual property or Purdue “know-how” technologies in plant sciences, including
areas of research in crop optimization, hybrid and seed development, and precision agriculture.
The fund is a joint project of the Purdue University College of Agriculture and Purdue Research
Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization and the Purdue Foundry, a startup hub in the
Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.
Purdue innovators creating a startup based on a Purdue plant sciences innovation are eligible to
apply for the Ag-celerator program. For more information contact John Hanak, Purdue Foundry
director of venture capital and funding resource, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Daryl Starr, Purdue
Foundry entrepreneur-in-residence, at email@example.com. ;
Vikki Weake Rebecca Doerge