By Eric Stahlberg, Ph.D., Director, High Performance Computing Initiative, Data Science and Information Technology Program, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR)
The recent weeks have been momentous as the high-performance computing (HPC) community embraced the challenge of precision medicine. The theme of this year’s leading international supercomputing conference, SC16, was “HPC Matters” and it was evident that HPC matters to precision medicine and that precision medicine matters to the high-performance computing community.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recognizes that high-performance computing is a critical key to success when facing challenges in data, computation, and collaboration for the many efforts within and across organizations as well as within and across nations. With the involvement of the high-performance computing community in precision medicine, insights will be more quickly reached, limits overcome, and results shared, accelerating the critical innovations needed in precision oncology to help those touched by cancer.
Whether inspired by the Cancer Moonshot, the National Strategic Computing Initiative, the Precision Medicine Initiative, or personal interest, the response of the community to the opportunity in precision medicine was compelling throughout the conference.
The first plenary session that took place on Monday evening (HPC Impacts on Precision Medicine: Life’s Future–The Next Frontier in Healthcare), focused on the critical role of HPC in precision medicine. Five distinguished panelists including NCI’s acting Deputy Director and Director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology, Dr. Warren Kibbe, collectively shared how collaboration, data and computational science, and an experienced workforce, all enabled by HPC are critical to reach the objectives for precision medicine.
Furthermore, SC16’s workshop on Computational Approaches for Cancer and a related “Birds of a Feather Session” served to raise awareness across the scale of innovation, opportunities, and challenges in precision oncology. Leaders in cancer research, world leading computational and computer scientists, industry experts, academia, and government representatives from across the globe, came together to express a strong commitment to collaborate and share insights. Details of exciting new efforts such as the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C), the Informatics Tools for Cancer Research, and Cancer Cloud Pilots proved to be of high interest.
Industry commitment to success was also clear with the announcement by NVIDIA Corporation of their support for the CANcer Distributed Learning Environment (CANDLE), a predictive oncology learning environment being developed in a collaborative effort between NCI and the U.S. Department of Energy. CANDLE is part of the JDACS4C program under the Department of Energy (DOE) Exascale Computing Initiative.
The passion to help individual patients is clearly shared by the high-performance computing community. As we look ahead to address the breadth of challenges identified in the newly released report on the Frontiers of Predictive Oncology and Computing, it is imperative that we look for new and expanded opportunities to work together with the HPC community in new and novel ways to accelerate progress in precision medicine and oncology.