Flash storage helps McArthur Lab speed up lifesaving results
September 29, 2020
HAMILTON, Ont. – McMaster University’s McArthur Lab, which conducts data-intensive research on the genetic makeup of superbugs – including the SARS-CoV 2 virus that causes the Covid-19 disease – has installed high-powered flash storage from Pure Storage. The Pure FlashBlade solution provides the lab with 72 terabytes of digital storage and delivers data to the desktop much faster than conventional systems.
“There’s no point in playing with traditional storage because it’s just not fast enough,” said Andrew G. McArthur, Ph.D., associate professor at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ont. “With Pure Storage we can stay ahead of the curve as we fight global threats to human health.”
The McArthur Lab is home to 30 investigators, including professors, students and postdoctoral fellows with expertise in infectious diseases, human genetics, microbiology and drug discovery. They’re also collaborating with numerous colleagues and partners outside the lab – across Canada, in the United States and around the world.
The lab has been deeply involved in deciphering the transmission of Covid-19 using proprietary technology that it developed itself along with off-the-shelf equipment. Because the Covid virus mutates slowly, it’s possible to take meaningful “genetic fingerprints” as it works its way through the population.
The McArthur lab can detect chains of transmission by sequencing the genomes of the viruses found in people who have tested positive. If the sequences are similar, the patients were probably infected by each other. If the sequences are different, the infection likely came from elsewhere.
In this way, researchers and public health officials can establish chains of transmission. Doing this kind of detective work – for Covid-19 and many other diseases – requires researchers to work quickly while using enormous data sets. They’re sequencing the virus in thousands of patients, and each virus consists of 28,000 base pairs that must be analyzed. The immense volume of data that’s generated by genetic research prompted McMaster’s McArthur Lab to opt for the Pure FlashBlade storage.
“FlashBlade speeds drug discovery and pathogen biology by analyzing select data sets 24 times faster than before,” said McArthur. “What once took one to two days to conduct, now can be done in two to three hours.”
The improvement in speed and results benefits not only the researchers, but healthcare providers, policy makers and patients, as well.
“Data is critical to the daily insights in the lab,” said McArthur. “However, the vast and growing amount of information relies on near-instant processing times. By replacing our legacy storage infrastructure with Pure, we have the ability to gain insight into the virus through next-generation sequencing.”
As gene sequencing technology continues to advance, rapid scalability and performance will remain critical to the lab’s efforts.
“The need to quickly identify and respond to global threats to human health has never been clearer,” said Josh Gluck, vice president of Global Healthcare Technology Strategy at Pure Storage. “With FlashBlade, researchers at McArthur Lab can continue to conduct research that has widespread global impact.”
For its part, Pure Storage (NYSE: PSTG), based in Mountain View, Calif., is an IT pioneer that delivers storage as-a-service in a multi-cloud world. Pure’s FlashBlade now serves as the digital backbone of the McArthur Lab, as it continues to combat the spread of superbugs and other major issues, such as the rapid spread of antimicrobial resistance – the ability of pathogens to develop resistance to antibiotics.
“FlashBlade generates results in three hours or less for insights that can save lives and lead to better public health decision,” said McArthur. “Not only can McMaster process more data, it is processing better data, leading to better, faster outcomes. Since moving to a modern data-centric infrastructure, the lab’s results have become even more accurate.”
Read the case study https://www.purestorage.com/company/newsroom/press-releases/pure-accelerates-mcmaster-university-mcarthur-lab.html to learn more about how McMaster is using next generation technology in the fight against superbugs.
For the original announcement of Pure Data’s implementation at McMaster University’s McArthur Lab, see https://investor.purestorage.com/news-and-events/press-releases/press-release-details/2020/Pure-Storage-Accelerates-McMaster-Universitys-Lab-in-the-Fight-Against-COVID-19/default.aspx.