OHSU, Intel Frequently Asked Questions

This list of Frequently Asked Questions provides information about the collaboration between Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and Intel Corp. Media inquiries may be directed to OHSU's office of Strategic Communications, at 503 494-8231.

What are Intel and OHSU working on together?

Intel Corp. and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) are teaming up to develop next-generation computing technologies that advance personalized medicine by dramatically increasing the speed, precision and cost-effectiveness of analyzing a patient’s individual genetic profile. The multi-year collaboration is aimed at gaining detailed insights into the root causes of disease, beginning with cancer. The information will assist with exploring possible treatments to turn off the spread of disease in the body.

Why Intel?

Intel is a leader in exascale computing. Exa, the prefix, indicates a quantity of 1 quintillion – or, put another way, one million trillion. That’s how many floating point operations an exascale computer can perform every second – about 1,000 times more than today’s top supercomputers. That’s mind-bogglingly fast, but our scientists will routinely need to compare billions of individual data points in the years ahead. They need speed at an affordable cost.

Why OHSU?

OHSU is a pioneer in personalized cancer medicine. Its work to develop the breakthrough cancer pill Gleevec® proved it was possible to target molecules malfunctioning in cells to stop the progression of the disease. Gleevec’s success helped launch the field of personalized cancer medicine globally. OHSU has continued to innovate in this area of medicine. Its top scientists have developed a four-dimensional approach for imaging and analyzing the molecular-level drivers of cancer and other diseases. These imaging techniques work like a Google map for cancer by providing a highly detailed view of how cells change over time at the molecular level along with a big-picture analysis of how the cells behave as a system.

What exactly are Intel and OHSU doing to achieve their mutual goal?

Working side by side with cancer as their first disease target, Intel’s engineers and OHSU’s biomedical experts are working to develop a way to create a highly detailed circuit diagram of the genome. By comparing an individual patient’s circuitry with the map of a healthy genome, scientists can isolate and study the patient’s individual genetic abnormalities to determine which, if any, are linked to cancer. It sounds simple, but the computational demands of this work are intense, requiring clusters of supercomputers and customized algorithms geared to decode the bewildering complexity of human genetic variation.

The team is working together to combine Intel’s computing expertise with what OHSU knows about how to create images of how cells change over time. This combination provides the capability to develop the right tools to make significant progress in making the promise of personalized cancer medicine a reality for more patients. This is likely to be a decades-long process at the very least, but along the way we expect that what we will learn in studying cancer will also provide insights into other complex diseases.

How can I learn more?

Listen to a podcast of an interview with OHSU’s Joe Gray, read the media release announcing the collaboration or visit Intel's website to see blog posts from Intel's Eric Dishman and Gans Srinivasa.