Singapore organisations outline genomics as game changer in developing drugs, vaccines, and precision medicine

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A new whitepaper, commissioned by Lenovo and Intel, led by IDC highlights 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 underlines humanity’s greatest challenges where genomics research-led intervention could impact significantly. A key highlight from the whitepaper states that while pandemic-led acceleration in innovation has given a boost to the Singapore healthcare sector, genomics high-performance computing (HPC) infrastructure that is key to drug and vaccine discovery and developing a precision medicine strategy is still at the start-up stage for nearly 57% of organisations in Singapore. This trend is also seen across a few other APAC regions surveyed, however, Japan and Korea lead in having advanced (3+ years) HPC infrastructures.

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

Genomics and humanity’s greatest challenge

When it comes to solving society and humankind’s biggest challenges, 40% of Singapore decision makers are certain genomics is fundamental to develop a precision medicine strategy to treat chronic illness, rare diseases, and lifestyle diseases. Unsurprisingly, 33% organisations surveyed across Asia-Pacific mirror this drift, followed by 17.3% who believe genomics can improve development of drugs and vaccines, which is also a priority for nearly 24% of organisations in Singapore.

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Distinctive aspects discovered in the whitepaper point to the expansive potential of genomics. According to nearly 30% of surveyed Singapore leaders, genomics could also be a game changer in forensic genomics.

Commenting on this, Sinisa Nikolic, Director and Segment Leader, HPC & 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, which organisations across Asia-Pacific ranked as top challenges when looking for genomics solutions.”

Increasing genomic workloads and storage capabilities 

The trend towards developing niche, high-value personalised health solutions is expected to boom as almost all (96.7%) Singapore organisations anticipate their annual genomics workloads to grow more than 10% over the next two years. Similarly, for almost 77%, the annual spend on data storage and compute is likely to increase more than 10% in the two-year period.

Sumir Bhatia, President, AP, Lenovo ISG said, “One size doesn’t fit all, whether at front-end healthcare delivery or backend IT infrastructure. To catch up with the ever-growing data, the required infrastructure set-up can immensely add to the capital and operational expenditure. We expect this to be a critical challenge for organisations in Singapore 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 nearly 44% of organisations who are currently spending more than SG$1 million annually on data compute, storage, and maintenance and services. Even with the challenges around scalability, flexibility, and costs, nearly half (43.3%) of the respondents are not looking to acquire new solutions to transform their HPC landscape. Surprisingly, similar feedback was given by 50% of leaders in Asia.

Recognising IT challenges and accelerating genomics transformation with HPC

With a growing focus on making precision medicine a reality, 50% of decision makers in Singapore’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 and productivity challenge for genome sequencing. Delving further into the challenges, nearly 47% of the respondents ranked “multi-dimensionality of data” as the second biggest IT challenge, ahead of cybersecurity risks, which nearly 54% ranked as the fifth most critical IT challenge.

Across Asia-Pacific, close to 90% of respondents are using high-performance workstations, while over 50% also use laptops for data visualisation. Interestingly, 36% are using 3D augmented reality/virtual reality solutions, indicating a growing shift toward 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, Lenovo’s Genomics Optimization and Scalability Tool (GOAST) reduces the time to process a single human genome from 150 hours to less than 48 minutes, which significantly expedites analysis. This means researchers can 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 and expecting it to grow tremendously over the next few years,” Nikolic added.

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