IT driven forward by scientific discovery

IT and medical research are now driving progress in each other's fields, with medicine pressing for grid computing and ever...

IT and medical research are now driving progress in each other's fields, with medicine pressing for grid computing and ever higher performance to match an explosion in scientific discovery, writes John Kavanagh.

This is the view put forward by Carol Kovac, general manager of IBM Life Science Solutions, who is presenting the UK's fifth annual Turing Lecture on 23 January. This free prestige event is run by the BCS and the Institution of Electrical Engineers.

"The announcement of the human genome sequence in 2000 sparked an explosion of scientific discovery in biology and life sciences, which in turn has created the need for powerful new computing solutions," Kovac says.

"The new knowledge coming out of life sciences projects will change the world as much as or more than the Internet, and will transform the pharmaceutical and health care industries and profoundly improve the practice of medicine.

"IT is a key to this revolution, handling the enormous volumes of data and creating powerful analytical tools for mining valuable information from vast databases.

"Life sciences applications are driving the roadmap for high-performance computing as well as for collaborative, grid-based scientific computing environments.

"The convergence of computing and biology promises to transform the process of drug discovery and development and speed up the ability to create effective and safe new medicines and introduce them to the market.

"In short, this convergence is paving the way for new scientific discovery, value creation in pharmaceuticals and health care, and enormous benefits to humankind in medicine."

Kovac's unit brings together IBM's work in areas including supercomputing, data management, data mining and knowledge management.

Kovac, originally a chemistry specialist, joined IBM in 1983 and has had senior jobs in IBM Research, including head of research in computational biology.

The Turing Lecture, in honour of UK mathematician and computing pioneer Alan Turing, is run in association with Oxford University Press and is sponsored by The Computer Journal.

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