Around 60,000 smartphone users worldwide have downloaded the DreamLab app, which turns the devices into a virtual supercomputer to allow cancer researchers to crunch genomic data faster.
The free app, which was launched last November by the Vodafone Foundation and The Garvan Institute for Medical Research, pools the power of each individual’s smartphone while they are sleeping.
The combined processing power of smartphones is helping Garvan researchers cut the time it takes to compare the genetic profiles of prostate, breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancers and make new discoveries that will ‘personalise’ treatment for these diseases.
Researchers are working with sequence DNA data from thousands of patients, de-identified for research, for these four cancer types. Currently, these cases are grouped based on where the cancer started.
As cancer is a disease of the DNA, researchers are wanting to create a library of cancers that are grouped on genetic profile. This better target drugs that will be most effective for each individual patient, Alyssa Jones, head of Vodafone Foundation told CIO Australia.
Jones said that 14.6 per cent of the research data relating to these cancers has been crunched.
“That may not sound like a big number but it would have taken the Garvan team eight months to reach that milestone, and DreamLab did it in four months,” said Jones.
“If you compare speeds of compute compared to what Garvan can do on their in-house supercomputer, we’ve reached speeds up to 1500 times faster.”
The project is providing cancer researchers with a free data processing resource that they would normally have to pay for, said Jones.
Vodafone Foundation expects to hit its target of having 100,000 smartphones users on board within the next couple of months, Jones added.
Last November, the telco said with this many users on board, researchers will be able to crunch data about 3000 times faster than the current rate. With five million users on board, that increases to 150,000 times faster than the current rate.
“I think we’ll get there easily but it’s not about hitting 100,00 and stopping, there’s more that can be done,” she said.
Meanwhile, DreamLab will support more initiatives at Garvan and across other research organisations in Australia and overseas in the future – and not only cancer research but other problems that require the crunching of big data.
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