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Big Brains

Massive computing power drives genetic medicine, and much more

Yoda plays the drums

The CCR helped create images for MTV2’s Video Mods TV show. Photo: Center for Computational Research/IBC Digital

By Lauren Newkirk Maynard

Gigaflops and server discs may sound drier than dust, but UB’s Center for Computational Research (CCR) is anything but. The data-crunching power behind the center has played a role in everything from editing MTV music videos to assisting “shape-shifting materials research” funded by the U.S. Air Force. The CCR may soon be instrumental in revolutionizing the management and treatment of major diseases, like diabetes and cancer.

During his State of the State address in January, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $105-million investment in genomics (the study of human genetic information, or DNA). Thanks to its supercomputing muscle and experience in bioinformatics and genomic research, UB was chosen to partner with the Manhattan-based New York Genome Center to form the UB-New York Genome Center Initiative—an effort to put the Empire State at the leading edge of personalized medicine.

If approved by the legislature (still pending at press time), $50 million of this state funding will help the CCR improve its supercomputing infrastructure and store the massive amounts of data gathered by researchers at UB and across the state. Ultimately it will lead to increased collaboration between the CCR and innovative start-ups, giving a boost to the local economy.

The CCR, housed on UB’s Downtown Campus, has been a key component of UB 2020, the university’s strategic plan. Center experts help faculty researchers harness the emerging discipline of computational science, combining heavy-duty quantitative analysis with experiments in everything from biotechnology to pharmaceutical drug discovery, materials science, physics and global climate change.