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Intel shares more details about its cancer cloud

August 19, 2015, 8:51 PM UTC
Photograph by Justin Sullivan — Getty Images

Intel shared a few more details on Wednesday about its plans to aid cancer research, saying that it’s teamed up with the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) to create a cloud-computing platform tailored for cancer research.

The semiconductor company first explained its intentions to build a cloud computer system —in which organizations can access and swap data hosted on a shared data center—tailored for cancer research in 2013. At its annual developer conference, Intel (INTC) representatives said that the platform has matured to the point that, next year, they expect two new organizations to join what’s being called the Collaborative Cancer Cloud.

In 2013, Intel explained that it was helping OHSU build a research data center loaded with Intel-powered supercomputing technology that university researchers could access and use to study the genomic profile of tumors. Intel revealed this week that the company’s home grown data analytics software system, Discovery Peak, helps process the health-related information in the cancer cloud.

Intel is not the only company trying to make a name for itself in cancer research. IBM (IBM) has been teaming up with healthcare organizations like the Cleveland Clinic on its Watson artificial intelligence system to help cancer research. Healthcare startups like Guardant Health, Flatiron Health, and Syapse are also working on similar initiatives involving the use of big data technologies to help researchers study cancer.

Companies clearly see the mixing of healthcare and data as a potential source of big revenue. Government research projects that U.S. citizens will shell out $4.5 trillion dollars on health care by 2019. In Intel’s case, the company could stand to benefit by providing the computer chips needed to power the kind of large-scale data centers it’s been developing with the OHSU.

Intel said that its cancer cloud is different from other research projects because of its emphasis on letting healthcare partners share data with each other in a secure manner. Cancer research groups “are hesitant to share data for security concerns” said Dr. Brian Druker during the Intel conference.

The Collaborative Cancer Cloud is secure enough that multiple organizations should be able to access it without fear that something could go wrong, said Diane M. Bryant, the senior vice president and general manager for Intel’s data center group.

Eventually, Intel and OHSU hope to expand the cloud platform to handle other types of medical research like Alzheimer’s and heart disease, Druker said.

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