IBM and the avian flu

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Interesting advertorial over at that focuses on nanotechnology. One of the examples that come up in the interview with Dr. Paul M. Horn (director of research at IBM Corporation) is the work they are doing collaboratively with Scripps on the avian flu:

With the avian flu, we’ve modeled the virus on supercomputers, and we think we understand why it binds deep in the lungs–it’s not communicable–you don’t cough it up.

We think we can actually model the mutations and limit it to the ones that are going to be biologically active or dangerous and then build vaccines ahead of time for the potentially dangerous strain of avian flu, if it comes along. This changes the infectious disease world. Predictive and anticipatory rather than reactionary. With Scripps, it’ll take a couple of years. The biggest machine today is the one we’ve built for Lawrence Livermore, Bluegene, which is one third of a petaflop. This machine we’re talking about with Scripps is 30x bigger than today’s biggest. We might be able to get away with one-half or one-fifth of that. It will take a major supercomputing facility to do these kind of predictive problems.