by Will Ramey

There’s exciting news this week about NVIDIA’s ambitious Compute the Cure initiative, which enlists NVIDIA technology and resources in the fight against cancer.

The NVIDIA Foundation has awarded a grant of $100,000 for a research team from Virginia Tech to build a gene sequencing and alignment platform that will make it easier for genomics researchers to identify mutations and understand how cancer gets started in DNA.

NVIDIA employees donate hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to disease research, and our annual employee survey shows that health-related issues are a major concern. I’m on the board of the NVIDIA Foundation – one of the few employee-led foundations in Silicon Valley – and I’m very proud of what we’re doing with Compute the Cure.

Compute the Cure is a key initiative of the NVIDIA Foundation. It’s focused on investing in projects that use parallel computing to help find a cure for cancer. At the same time, we’re educating our employees about cancer prevention and awareness. The announcement of this initial grant is a major milestone toward making discoveries that can one day be used to benefit cancer patients directly.

Wu Feng Ph.D., our lead partner at Virginia Tech, is equally excited about the value of this sequencing and alignment platform. “Our goal is to create new computational tools in sequence alignment and realignment that can be used to examine the deluge of data coming from next-generation sequencers. With data now being produced far faster than we can analyze it, the best way to solve this problem is with the parallel-processing power of the GPU.”

The focus for Compute the Cure in 2011 is on genomics, where we feel NVIDIA’s involvement can have the biggest impact. Genomics research holds great promise because it allows researchers to identify the origins of cancer right where it starts – in DNA. Not only that, genomics involves managing large data sets where parallel processing can greatly accelerate the pace of cancer research.

The result of our partnership with Virginia Tech will let researchers leverage a platform that makes it easier to evaluate large DNA data sets and pinpoint mutations. The idea is to make this platform available to other researchers as an open source project, so that the benefits of the work extend well beyond the initial two institutions involved.

The NVIDIA Foundation is also planning to make hardware donations to researchers looking to use the platform in their research, as well as to other institutions that want to build on it with additional algorithms and applications.

I’m also a product manager for GPU Computing here at NVIDIA, and it’s extremely gratifying for me to use my experience in this area on a major philanthropic initiative like finding a cure for cancer.

Learn more about the NVIDIA Foundation and Compute the Cure.