March 7, 2002
Michael P. Haydock
President and CEO
Rigorous Science Requires “Brute Force” Computing
What is the history of your organization’s involvement in life sciences?
Haydock: Our predecessor firm, Cray Research, was a co-sponsor with the U.S. Department of Energy of what arguably was the first global bioinformatics conference, held in 1990 at Florida State University. Of course, the bioinformatics, or life sciences, market didn’t gain momentum until mid-2000, when the human genome was largely sequenced.
We began seriously pursuing this market in May 2001, after the National Cancer Institute validated that special hardware built into our supercomputers for the intelligence community handled sequencing tasks up to 1,000 times faster than anything else available—and did this exhaustively, with absolute rigor. Well before this, Dr. Fred Hausheer and his colleagues at BioNumerik Pharmaceuticals in San Antonio began using “brute force” capabilities on Cray supercomputers to support drug discovery and design entirely from first principles, including advanced protein-folding.
What is your vision for the development of the life sciences market?
Haydock: We want to be the leading supplier of supercomputing solutions for advanced bioinformatics work. We want to work with the most creative minds and organizations in this sector, supplying them with the computing tools and expertise that allow them to succeed. This is what Cray does in our other markets. We believe there’s a pressing need for a high-performance computing company that is committed to supporting rigorous scientific methods.
Bioinformatics researchers are already bravely operating at the frontiers of known science. On top of this, they are often forced to take serious scientific shortcuts because of the limitations of current IT solutions. In order to complete problems in reasonable time frames, scientific insight and problem resolution are sacrificed. The heuristic pass at the front end of BLAST is a good example. This shortcut is used because running a full Smith-Waterman would take too long. We give leading organizations the “brute force” computing power to operate with scientific rigor.
What organizational assets have you developed to serve this community?
Haydock: Cray is the only company in the world dedicated entirely to supercomputing. We have 800 people who live and breathe our mission to help customers solve the world’s most challenging problems. For the life sciences market, we have a global team that includes subject matter experts, programmers, and sales and service people.
What products and services does your company provide to the life sciences market?
Haydock: Our Cray SV1 product line was voted “Supercomputer of the Year” in 2001, 2000, and 1999. These are the workhorse computers at the National Cancer Institute’s Advanced Biomedical Computing Center, BioNumerik Pharmaceuticals, and other life sciences customers. The newest version, the Cray SV1ex, helped Cray Inc. dominate both of the top categories in the recent (Nov. 2001) independent rankings of supercomputers.
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