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Data Science, High-Performance Computing, and Influenza

Using data to predict individual health outcomes based on treatments, genomics, and lifestyle and behavioral factors may lead to some of the biggest advances in health care.

Timothy DyeAccording to the World Health Organization, between 250,000 and 500,000 people worldwide die from flu each year. David Topham, a University biologist and influenza researcher who has nearly 10 titles to his name, including director of the University’s Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation, has spent his career trying to figure out why.

His main question has been “How does an influenza infection affect the immune system?” High-performance computing is at the core of his research, and so is the University’s IBM Blue Gene/Q, one of the world’s fastest supercomputers. Topham knows that having the right tools and methods and hardware and software in place will lead to a better understanding of the immune system’s response to influenza. This could result in the ability to design a vaccine to destroy multiple strains of influenza and, ultimately, protect people from this potentially deadly disease.


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