DOE lab signs pact with Celera

The Energy Department's Sandia National Laboratories signed an agreement with Celera Genomics to jointly develop technology solutions to improve health in humans.

The solutions will be designed to meet the demands of advanced computational biology, which encompasses programs such as the Human Genome Project.

Compaq Computer Corp. will provide the project's technology base, and representatives from Compaq, the White House, DOE, Sandia and Celera attended the signing ceremony in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19.

Signing the research and development agreement were C. Paul Robinson, Sandia's president and director, and J. Craig Venter, Celera's president and chief science officer.

The four-year agreement will include $10 million in support from DOE and multimillion-dollar commitments from Celera and Compaq.

"You know you're on the right track when some of [science's] toughest problems are being tackled by government and industry," said Neal Lane, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in his last official act as President Clinton's science and technology adviser. "The Human Genome Project is a perfect example of public/private collaboration in the national interest."

Sandia, Compaq and Celera will work together to increase computing capability with the goal of achieving 100 trillion operations per second and eventually 1,000 trillion operations per second, Venter said.

Current speeds fall far short. Compaq's AlphaServer SC series, which recently was selected by DOE as the architecture for the world's most powerful computer, will perform at 30 trillion operations per second when it's delivered in 2002.

The high speeds will enable the alliance to plumb the human gene map and search for information "with the goal in mind of improving human health," Robinson said.

"Biology can't proceed without high-end computing," Venter said. "We need the expertise in both [Celera and Sandia's] algorithm teams to really drive this."

In the early stages of the Human Genome Project, it took nearly 12 days to do the most advanced computations, but those are now done in about five minutes, Venter said. "Now we need to do calculations that take five minutes, and do it in seconds."

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