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Western Digital, UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute and Baskin School of Engineering Collaborate to Accelerate Genomics Sequencing

Western Digital's Ultrastar® Data60 (Photo: Business Wire) Multimedia Gallery URL

SAN JOSE, Calif. & SANTA CRUZ, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--

Western Digital Corp. (WDC), the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute and Baskin School of Engineering announced today that they have entered into a multi-year, joint research and development agreement to accelerate genomics sequencing workflows using computational storage technology. Results from this research could ultimately lead to the acceleration of clinical genomic analysis and precision medicine diagnoses at scale.

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Currently, identification and treatment of cancers using genomic diagnostics is slowed by the time-consuming process of moving massive amounts of data to the computing resources. Research scientists at the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute, Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz and Western Digital believe that moving computational capabilities closer to data storage will help speed the process of identification and treatment.

Western Digital is researching a novel computational storage architecture to test this theory at scale. “Our new architecture will distribute computation within a single computer system across multiple computational storage devices, each with its own storage and its own customizable computing resources,” said Robin O’Neill, head of emerging systems and software in the Office of the CTO. “By moving the compute to the data, rather than the data to the compute, we expect to take advantage of significantly greater bandwidth access to the genomics data by the near-media compute, as well as the custom, parallel computing capabilities within each computational storage device.”

To take best advantage of this new computing architecture, the collaborating organizations are researching the optimal partitioning and placement of genomics data across the computational storage devices. They are also researching how to accelerate core functions within each device to accelerate performance and minimize host system requirements. This may also be an overall reduction in power consumption which translates to lower overall total cost of ownership.

“Genomic data is on a trajectory to grow faster than almost every other type of data in the world. Moving the compute to the data is a key strategy already being adopted at the software layer in several global genomics initiatives. With the support and close collaboration of Western Digital’s team we’ll be able to take this all way down to the hardware layer,” said Benedict Paten, Director of the Computational Genomics Lab and Assistant Professor of Biomolecular Engineering.

“The structure of this project is a first for the UCSC Baskin School of Engineering with the close collaboration of engineers at Western Digital at the hardware layer, researchers in computer engineering at the firmware and architecture layer paired with researchers in genomics at the application layer,” said Heiner Litz, Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Engineering.

Western Digital will supply funding to support the collaborative team of graduate students and investigators in genomics and computer engineering as well as an Ultrastar® Data60 platform to be used by the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute to store data for this project.

“We are hopeful and enthusiastic about this collaboration that has potential to transcend the limits of data as information, and be immediately useful to those who depend on it,” said Martin Fink, CTO of Western Digital. “As an industry leader, we accept the growing responsibility to empower people and systems that depend on data. This collaboration represents the unification of people and ideas that will accelerate the promise of genomic data.”

Alexander Wolf, dean of the Baskin School of Engineering, also expressed his support of the collaboration. "Baskin Engineering is pleased to partner with Western Digital on this important project," he said. "This initiative supports the campus's greater goals of building a vibrant, entrepreneurial culture that promotes the adoption of UC Santa Cruz inventions while delivering social and economic benefits to our local and global communities."

For more information visit: Our New Collaboration on Genomics Sequencing Could Accelerate Results

About Western Digital

Western Digital creates environments for data to thrive. The company is driving the innovation needed to help customers capture, preserve, access and transform an ever-increasing diversity of data. Everywhere data lives, from advanced data centers to mobile sensors to personal devices, our industry-leading solutions deliver the possibilities of data.

Western Digital® data-centric solutions are comprised of the Western Digital® G-Technology™, SanDisk®, Upthere™ and WD® brands.

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About the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute

Comprised of diverse researchers from a variety of disciplines across three academic divisions, including School of Engineering and Physical and Biological Sciences, the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute leads UC Santa Cruz’s efforts to unlock the world’s genomic data and accelerate breakthroughs in health and evolutionary biology. Our platforms, technologies, and scientists unite global communities to create and deploy data-driven, life-saving treatments and innovative environmental and conservation efforts.

About the Baskin School of Engineering

Home to the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute, the Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz offers unique opportunities for education, research and training. Faculty and students seek new approaches to critical 21st century challenges within the domains of data science, genomics, bioinformatics, biotechnology, statistical modeling, high performance computing, sustainability engineering, human-centered design, communications, cyberphysical systems, optoelectronics and photonics, and networking. By leveraging novel tools that emerge from changing technologies, we have pioneered new engineering approaches and disciplines, examples of which include biomolecular engineering, computational media, and technology and information management.

Disclosure and Disclaimer

The information stated above was prepared by Western Digital to announce an agreement and reflects the opinion of Western Digital. Nothing in this statement shall be construed to imply any support or endorsement of Western Digital, or any of its products, by The Regents of the University of California, its officers, agents and employees.

University of California, Santa Cruz faculty members Benedict Paten and Heiner Litz will not receive compensation from Western Digital as part of this agreement.

Forward-Looking Statements

This news release contains certain forward-looking statements. There are a number of risks and uncertainties that may cause these forward-looking statements to be inaccurate including, among others: volatility in global economic conditions; business conditions and growth in the storage ecosystem; impact of competitive products and pricing; market acceptance and cost of commodity materials and specialized product components; actions by competitors; unexpected advances in competing technologies; development and introduction of products based on new technologies and expansion into new data storage markets; risks associated with acquisitions, mergers and joint ventures; difficulties or delays in manufacturing; and other risks and uncertainties listed in Western Digital's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"), including Western Digital's Form 10-K filed with the SEC on Aug. 24, 2018, to which your attention is directed. You should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date hereof, and we undertake no obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.

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