The Riken Research Institute, a Japanese government-backed natural sciences research center, is looking to build a highly specialized supercomputer that will be used to analyze proteins – a highly complicated and repetitive task. The said supercomputer is envisioned to be the most powerful of its kind when it goes online later this year, as Riken has already finished work on the basic design and underlying technology.
The supercomputer will be used to model protein structure changes in just one day – around 100 times faster than the “K computer,” Japan’s reigning fastest and most powerful computer. Japanese electronics and technology giant Hitachi helped develop the hardware for the supercomputer project, estimated to cost around 800 million yen (around US$7.55 million) when it gets done. The whole machine will be around the size of four bookcases and will be online at Riken’s Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Kobe. Riken says that it will allow Japanese universities and pharmaceutical companies use the new computer, giving them a competitive advantage globally in drug research and development.
Biotechnology is becoming the foundation behind the development of cancer therapies, and it seems that the key to battling this disease increasingly lies in how quickly researchers can grasp the complex structures of proteins implicated in disease. Riken is taking an example from leading American and European pharmaceutical firms who are already actively using supercomputers for this purpose. No global rankings exist for supercomputers in this field, but Riken claims that this new machine will be faster than any drug research supercomputer available today.