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CONTACT: Jack Hubbard, Stanford News Service

(650) 725-1294 or (650) 269-4113 ;

Charles A. Taylor, Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Surgery, (650) 725-6128 ;

Richard Marshall, SGI (Silicon Graphics)

(650) 933-8119

EDITORS: Representatives from Stanford and SGI (Silicon Graphics) will hold a press conference to unveil the new SGI (tm) Origin 3800 supercomputer on Friday, Feb. 16, at 2:30 p.m. in the second floor library of the Gates Computer Sciences Building on the Stanford campus.


Stanford and SGI (Silicon Graphics) announce new partnership in biomedical supercomputing

This week's landmark publication of the human genome – the so-called “genetic book of life” – is expected to revolutionize biomedical research in the 21st century.

But the genome map is only the beginning. The next challenge will be determining the function of each of the 30,000 to 40,000 genes that make up human DNA – as well as the hundreds of thousands of proteins those genes produce.

Unraveling the secrets of the genetic code will require massive computing power beyond the capacity of ordinary PCs.

Enter biocomputation – an emerging field that uses powerful computers to solve complex problems in genetics, protein analysis, biomechanics, surgical planning and other biosciences.

Biocomputation at Stanford has taken a giant leap forward with the recent installation of an SGI Origin 3800 supercomputer – the latest high-speed processor manufactured and designed by SGI (Silicon Graphics).

“The Origin 3800 marks the beginning of a new Stanford-SGI Partnership in Biomedical Supercomputing,” says Charles Taylor, assistant professor of surgery and, by courtesy, mechanical engineering.

“It's now the biggest computer at Stanford and one of the largest at any university dedicated exclusively to biocomputation,” he adds.

Taylor and other faculty members will join SGI Chairman and CEO Bob Bishop at a press conference to unveil the new Origin 3800 supercomputer on Friday, Feb. 16, at 2:30 p.m. in the second floor library of the Gates Computer Sciences Building on the Stanford campus.

The press conference will be followed by a media tour of the supercomputer, which is located on the bottom floor of the Gates Building.


The idea of having a supercomputer dedicated to biocomputation became a reality last spring when Taylor and other faculty members received a large grant from the Stanford Bio-X program – a pioneering, campus-wide effort to encourage interdisciplinary research in biomedicine and biotechnology.

Bio-X was launched in 1999 with a $150 million donation from Jim Clark, founder of SGI and Netscape and a former professor of electrical engineering at Stanford. The Bio-X program brings together researchers working in such diverse fields as biophysics, biochemistry, microbiology, chemical and mechanical engineering, computer science and surgery.

The Origin 3800 was purchased with a combination of funds from Bio-X, the School of Engineering, the School of Medicine and the Office of the Dean of Research – along with an equipment donation from SGI.

Press conference

Charles H. Kruger, vice provost and dean of research and graduate policy at Stanford, will lead off Friday's press conference by providing an overview of the Bio-X program.

He will be followed by Russ B. Altman, associate professor of medicine and, by courtesy, computer science, who will describe Stanford efforts in biocomputation. Altman, who is director of Stanford's new Center for Biomedical Computation, says that the Origin 3800 already has allowed one of his graduate students to reduce his average computation time from three months to just two days.

Taylor will demonstrate how the Origin 3800 can create 3-D images of biomechanical processes such as blood flow and muscular-skeletal movement. He also will explain the Stanford-SGI Partnership and introduce Bob Bishop, chairman and chief executive officer of SGI.

Bishop will point out that SGI's medical applications and core engineering groups have enjoyed a close collaboration with Stanford for many years.

“We believe that Stanford University is uniquely capable of making important discoveries in biocomputation because of its history, its vision and its comprehensive understanding of how to exploit visualization technology to enhance data interpretation,” says Bishop, SGI Chairman and CEO.

The medical industry is one of SGI's hot-spot science sectors, observes Bishop, noting that few applications require as much of SGI's expertise in computation and visualization as those in biomedicine.

“Luminary sites such as Stanford are the technology incubators and product test beds of our medical industry customers,” says Bishop. “We view the Stanford installation for multidisciplinary biomedical research as an investment and a prime example of our commitment to the medical industry.”

The Origin 3800 is now fully operational and is available to all Stanford researchers involved in biocomputational projects.


By Mark Shwartz

Photographs relating to this story can be downloaded at Look for photos that begin with the slug “SGI.”

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