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Final elements for NZ’s $41m genomics infrastructure

Wednesday 29 August 2012
Final elements in place for New Zealand’s $41m genomics infrastructure

New Zealand Genomics Limited (NZGL) will soon offer its fully-integrated genomics service, following today’s announcement that providers have been chosen for data storage and processing.

Three years ago, the Government committed $40.6m over 10 years to establish NZGL, a collaborative infrastructure of genetic sequencing technology and expertise. The collaborators – University of Otago, The University of Auckland and Massey University – have committed additional funding. The infrastructure is vital in underpinning research in the fields of medicine, agriculture and the environment; it involves three components: sequencing, bioinformatics and an IT cloud for data processing and storage.

NZGL Chief Executive Dr Tony Lough announced to scientists and industry at the Queenstown Molecular Biology Conference today that the final element, the IT cloud, was in now place.

“We are very pleased to announce that Telecom’s ICT services division Gen-i will be our provider of IT infrastructure, while bioinformatics software suppliers Biomatters Limited will be providing the supporting software. NZGL can now provide a fullyintegrated genomics solution for the New Zealand research community.

“This will see NZGL delivering a superb integrated IT and software solution that will greatly accelerate genomic research and economic outcomes for New Zealand. Some researchers have been patiently waiting for this final piece of the puzzle. They can now get on with their work.

“With the cost of sequencing becoming increasingly accessible, genomics technology is driving research along at a pace we’ve not experienced before. This is exciting and holds real possibilities for New Zealand – with regard to medical advances and understanding our unique environment, but also with regard to our agricultural sector."

Associate Professor Cristin Print, a researcher in human disease, says access to such advanced technology within New Zealand is something the research community has been eagerly anticipating for some time.

“New genomics technology is transforming what biological and medical scientists can achieve. We can now study fields like evolution, plant breeding and human cancer on a whole-genome-scale. This has opened our eyes to the complexity of life and allowed us to make discoveries that are changing everything – from the diagnosis of human disease, to monitoring the ecological health of streams.

“However, this new science produces tsunamis of data, which needs dedicated computing and data analysis resources to become meaningful. It’s therefore great news to hear that the final component is in place."

NZGL’s Acting Chief Information Officer Dr Phillip Lindsay says today’s agreements – worth $3m over three years – provide a solid base, which will be further developed to meet evolving demand. “In this way, NZGL will continue to be able to provide the best bioinformatics solutions to our researchers into the future."

The HP compute and storage infrastructure, provided by Gen-i, consists of very high memory servers, a high-performance compute cluster and substantial storage. It will be hosted and managed by Gen-i in their Dunedin data centre and will be connected to KAREN (the New Zealand Research and Educational Network) with a 10 Gb/sec connection.

Dr Lindsay says the research environment is somewhat different to the normal commercial IT environment that Gen-i functions within. “However, Gen-i showed willingness to really try and understand these differences and to meet NZGL requirements. We are therefore delighted to be partnering with them and harnessing their expertise."

He describes the software application services as the critical component. “It’s what allows the raw sequence data to be turned into useful information – information that assists in understanding the molecular basis of disease, identifying genes and variants that can be breed to improve horticultural and agricultural productivity and elucidating the genetic basis upon which organisms develop, interact and behave."

Biomatters’ Chief Executive Dr Brett Ammundsen says that working with NZGL is a fantastic way for the company to stay connected with the cutting-edge genomic research being undertaken by New Zealand scientists. “This is a natural complement to our existing global business of delivering world-class software products for biological interpretation of genomic data."

The genomics community will have access to this world-class infrastructure by the end of this year.


Biomatters: Brief background

Biomatters’ unique blend of Kiwi ingenuity and global excellence sees its solutions at the forefront of bioinformatics and supercomputing.

Biomatters’ flagship product, Geneious, is a DNA and protein sequence alignment, assembly, and analysis software package that combines bioinformatic and molecular biology tools into a simple interface. Biomatters received the honour of the Microsoft Hi-Tech Emerging Company Award at the 2012 NZ Hi-Tech Awards in May.

Gen-i: Brief background

Gen-i is at the forefront of helping customers take advantage of the convergence of technology and telecommunications, and the new opportunities this makes possible. Gen-i works alongside its 2,700 corporate, government and business customers to deliver seamless hosted and integrated ICT solutions. A member of the Telecom New Zealand Group, Gen-i achieves this with the support of 2,500 highly skilled people in 19 locations across New Zealand and Australia.

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