“Cloud4CARE”: SIA, Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit Speed Up Research Activities at the “Mario Negri” Institute Thanks to the Cloud

Milan - 8 May 2013

  • Announcing the startup of the first Italian “scientific-banking cloud” project to support cancer research through secure network connections and IT systems in protected environments
  • Thanks to greater processing capacity (around 4,000 CPUs), the flexible, scalable solution has permitted, since the initial test phase of the service, a significant reduction (around 90%) in the time needed to analyze data concerning ovarian cancer research

As of today, cancer research has one more powerful ally. Thanks to “Cloud4CAncerREsearch” (Cloud4CARE), the first “scientific-banking cloud” project made in Italy, the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research can use the high processing capacity of the IT systems at SIA, Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit, enabling researchers to speed up the analysis of DNA sequencing data.

This initiative represents a new model of collaboration at national level realized thanks to the full assistance of SIA, Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit, with the support of the non-profit organization ACTO Onlus – Alleanza Contro il Tumore Ovarico (Alliance Against Ovarian Cancer) which is particularly significant if we consider the fact that no level of financing could have achieved a similar result.

The so-called Next Generation Sequencing (the new frontier in scientific research based on the evolution of sequencing protocols still in the prototype stage) requires, in fact, IT systems with ever greater processing capacity. The aim is to develop high-performance research algorithms for the study of the human genome while at the same time increasing not only the speed when processing huge quantities of data, but also the accuracy and precision of the analyses.

The “Cloud4CAncerREsearch” project, which exploits the potential of “Cloud Computing” technology, involves the design and realization of an architecture dedicated to supporting the research activities of the Mario Negri Institute.

Through secure network connections, supported by SIA’s multi-service infrastructure, the researchers of the Oncology Department can access, from their own workstations, the data centers of Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit to carry out calculation algorithms (also of different types and simultaneously), by using an ordinary internet browser and a virtual private network (VPN).

This architecture permits part of the IT resources of the two banking groups – in total around 4,000 CPUs (Central Processing Units) and 1 Terabyte of RAM memory – to be exploited in protected environments. A considerable processing capacity added to the approximately 40 CPUs currently used by the bioinformatics team.

The initial test phase for the service performed by the “Mario Negri” Institute highlighted a dramatic reduction in processing time, which for example went from around 2 hours to 10 minutes for a 4 Gigabyte file and a remarkable improvement of around 100 times in the precision of calculations.

Among the distinguishing features of the architecture are its flexibility and scalability that permit the allocation of the processing capacity in a dynamic manner in order to configure the environments according to specific calculation requirements.

It follows that the researchers of the Oncology Department can manage said environments in total autonomy and security, deciding on the most suitable conditions for their processing activities. Consequently, the bioinformatics team has all the power it requires without the need for “in-house” technology support systems but rather by exploiting remotely those that SIA has placed at its disposal at the data centers of the two banking groups.

The first application of the new system, already underway, concerns the study of the molecular signatures associated with sensitivity and resistance to the various ovarian cancer therapies, which will form the basis for increasing the efficacy of treatments by taking into account the biological characteristics of each type of tumor.

“This project marks the beginning of a new collaboration model that, despite the current difficult period, has been able to involve major Italian stakeholders in helping research to defeat cancer – commented Massimo Arrighetti, CEO of SIA – A winning collaboration applied to Corporate Social Responsibility which, thanks to the technology available, can tangibly support the daily analysis and processing of billions of data carried out by bioinformaticians.”

Enrico Cucchiani, CEO of Intesa Sanpaolo stated: “in the staunch support that Intesa Sanpaolo has given to the Cloud4CARE project, it is possible to see the fundamental elements that characterize our way of interpreting the role of the Bank. We have indeed long been committed to one of the most innovative organizations in the field of cancer research in Italy, a field in which our country has an excellent reputation recognized at global level. The initial results achieved, also thanks to the role we have played, are extremely encouraging. This is a clear demonstration of how institutions, in particular in the private sector – continued Cucchiani – cannot fail to add their contribution to making progress in research and experimentation possible. In line with its role as a responsible player towards the economic, social and cultural growth of Italy, Intesa Sanpaolo shall continue to guarantee its support to state-of-the-art initiatives in the application of the most advanced technologies and in the scientific sector.”

"We are proud to be supporting this important project – commented Federico Ghizzoni, CEO of UniCredit – which marks a further step forward in the constant effort to overcome the boundaries of scientific research. At present, we have made 34 servers available that are constantly active and devoted exclusively to supporting this initiative. We are confident that the number will grow in the future following the evolution of the project itself and the further requirements. This collaboration – added Ghizzoni – will make the performance of parallel analysis and the production of a greater number of daily results possible, in turn allowing for more exact and timely data processing in full compliance with security policies. Through this initiative, we also intend to confirm, in a tangible manner, our commitment towards the common good in everyday life, with the awareness that the private sector, alongside non-profit organizations, can work together with the public sector to guarantee ever greater quality and efficiency in the services offered to citizens."

"In the absence of a Government policy to support the research – added Professor Silvio Garattini, Director of the “Mario Negri” Institute for Pharmacological Research - this project permits us to make use of significant private resources to carry out research in the public interest. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Intesa Sanpaolo, SIA, UniCredit and ACTO Onlus for the farsighted decision they have made.”

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