National Nuclear Security Administration

Supercomputers helping real-life superheroes in VA-DOE team-up

June 22, 2018

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A veteran receives a check-up.
A veteran receives a check-up.
Department of Veteran Affairs

An interagency partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the DOE/NNSA will use supercomputing to securely analyze digital medical records – potentially leading to improved healthcare for millions of veterans.

Suicide prevention, prostate cancer, and cardiovascular disease are the three priority areas for this “Big Data Science Initiative” as the VA and our National Laboratories seek to develop new medical treatments and preventive strategies.

“The VA has a unique dataset of medical records, whole genomes and imaging data that is one of the most comprehensive in dimensions of time, scale, and breadth … in many aspects this dataset is considered to be the largest and most comprehensive in the world,” said Dimitri Kusnezov, NNSA Chief Scientist.

The capabilities of high performance computers at our labs are already tackling important data processing tasks like predicting the spread of diseases and speeding up pharmaceutical timelines for new cancer treatments. According to Kusnezov, this new challenge “will uniquely stress our computers … in dimensions that our existing datasets have not.”

The VA already conducts extensive scientific research studies and clinical trials, leading to successful innovations in robotic prosthetics and other advanced technologies. Gaining access to the digital might of DOE/NNSA high-performance computing brings new potential for scientific achievement.

The collaboration will hopefully shed light on warning signs of diseases and improve our nation’s heroes’ quality of life while also accelerating development of the next generation of algorithms and modeling capability on our nation’s supercomputers.

The United States is the only country with the ability to bring together a health database of this size with analytics capabilities that can “push the frontiers of computing and artificial intelligence.” And our National Laboratories are especially suited to this task as “DOE provides a unique safe harbor for the data and applications of tools that is difficult to achieve in the commercial sector,” Kusnezov said.

Data sources from the Department of Defense, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also support this initiative.