57 per cent of organisations in India are at startup stage of genomics high-performance computing infrastructure, finds survey

A whitepaper by Lenovo and Intel, led by IDC, has underlined humanity’s greatest challenges where genomics research-led intervention could impact significantly

A new whitepaper, commissioned by Lenovo and Intel, led by IDC, has highlighted key challenges and drivers transforming the healthcare landscape across Asia Pacific. Titled ‘Leveraging High-Performance Compute Infrastructure to Address the Genomic Data Challenge in Life Sciences,’ the paper has underlined humanity’s greatest challenges where genomics research-led intervention could impact significantly.

A key highlight from the paper stated that while the pandemic-led acceleration in innovation has given a boost to the Indian healthcare sector, genomics High-Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructure that is key to drug/vaccine discovery and precision medicine, is still at a startup stage for nearly 57 per cent of surveyed organisations in India. This trend is also seen across a few other APAC regions surveyed: Japan and Korea lead in having advanced (3+ years) infrastructure.

The survey was conducted across 150 pharma and biotech companies across five key markets in Asia – India, Singapore, Thailand, Japan and Korea.

When it comes to solving the biggest challenges facing societies and mankind, 40 per cent of decision makers in India are certain that genomics is fundamental to develop a precision medicine strategy to treat chronic illness, rare diseases and lifestyle disorders. Unsurprisingly, 33 per cent of the organisations surveyed across Asia Pacific mirror this drift, followed by 21 per cent who believe genomics can improve development of drugs and vaccines which is also a priority for 20 per cent organisations in India, as per the paper.

Further, distinctive aspects discovered in the white paper point to the expansive potential of genomics — one being able to impact hunger and malnutrition, which has been ranked as the second greatest challenge across 40 per cent of decision makers. According to 30 per cent of surveyed leaders in India, genomics could also be a game-changer in helping to improve the environment as climate change continues to be a serious cause of concern.

Commenting on this, Sinisa Nikolic, Director and Segment Leader, HPC and AI, AP, Lenovo ISG, said, “The volume and type of genomics data generated is unimaginable, and to make accurate decisions based on this data requires huge computing power. This gets even more difficult with complex and unscalable solutions that were found to be cautious factors for 50 per cent of organisations in India looking for genomics solutions.”

The trend towards developing niche, high-value personalised health solutions is expected to boom as 83 per cent of organisations in India anticipate their annual genomics workloads to grow more than 10 per cent over the next two years. Similarly, for 80 per cent, the annual spend on data storage and compute is likely to increase more than 10 per cent in the two-years period.

Sumir Bhatia, President – AP, Lenovo ISG, said, “One size doesn’t fit all, whether at frontend healthcare delivery or backend IT infrastructure. To catch up with the ever-growing data, the required infrastructure setup can immensely add to the capital and operational expenditure. We expect this to be a critical challenge for organisations in India working to enhance their HPC infrastructure. This is where pay-as-you-go models like Lenovo TruScale become crucial so businesses of all sizes can scale up and down as required, and easily manage their operational expenditure to address humanity’s greatest challenges.”

The growing storage requirement predictions could add to the existing cost burdens for 33 per cent of organisations who are currently spending more than $1 million annually on data compute, storage and maintenance and services. Even with the challenges around scalability, flexibility and costs, nearly half (46.7 per cent) of the respondents are not looking to acquire new solutions to transform their HPC landscape.

Surprisingly, similar feedback was given by 50 per cent of the leaders in Asia.

With a growing focus on making precision medicine a reality, nearly 47 per cent of decision-makers in India’s genomics industry feel that, with the high velocity at which genome data is generated, the lack of computing power to analyse it becomes the biggest infrastructural challenge for genome sequencing.

Delving further into the challenges, 40 per cent of the respondents ranked ‘multi dimensionality of data’ as the second-big IT challenge.

Close to 97 per cent of respondents in India are using high-performance workstations and nearly 23 per cent also use laptops for data visualisation. Interestingly, 46 per cent are using 3-D Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) solutions, indicating a growing shift towards immersive visualisation techniques, complemented by deep learning to enable molecular modelling and simulations.

“A major challenge for researchers is the time taken to process a single genome. Fortunately, solutions like Lenovo Genomics Optimization and Scalability Tool (GOAST) reduce the time to process a single human genome from 150 hours to less than 48 minutes. This enables researchers to quickly map a cohort of people instead of spending time analysing a single genome. HPC supports high-throughput volumes to accelerate the speed of analysis, whereas AI helps make sense of the difference between genomes. This is why we are seeing GOAST being preferred by nearly 37 per cent of organisations in India and expecting it to grow tremendously over the next few years,” Sinisa Nikolic added.

In the entire context of genomics data, cyberthreats are a key challenge for only three per cent of the organisations in India, while more than 80 per cent feel strongly of their cybersecurity strategy indicating it as the lowest amongst the hurdles.

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