Grid platform speeds drug trials

Pharmaceuticals company Novartis has rolled out a PC-based grid-computing platform to boost its research and development...

Pharmaceuticals company Novartis has rolled out a PC-based grid-computing platform to boost its research and development capabilities. The move is expected to save the company up to £120m over the next three years on drug development costs.

The grid implementation, which involved the upgrade of 2,700 desktop PCs with Intel Pentium 4 processors, will deliver an extra five trillion operations per second of computing power by capturing previously unused resources, the company said.

Novartis preferred grid computing to the option of buying

capacity on mainframes on an on-demand basis. Explaining the decision, Manuel Peitsch, head of informatics and knowledge management for pharmaceutical research, said Novartis wanted to capitalise on its existing hardware investments.

Peter Sany, corporate chief information officer at Novartis, said the grid platform would dramatically cut the time taken to bring drugs to market.

"Computing resources are a key driver of shortened timelines," he said. "We have projects we calculate would take six years on a single supercomputer - today the run time is 12 hours.

In the past you would not bother starting that process."

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