J&J Pharma R&D looks skyward

It's a sad refrain: With times getting tighter, we all have to be more efficient. But Rick Franckowiak, director for systems engineering at the Pharmaceutical Research & Development IT organization at Johnson & Johnson, sees an upside to the economic downturn and the challenges it creates for pharma R&D. "Innovation is increasing out of necessity," he says. "Our job is to stay out in front and understand where the technology is advancing to."

Franckowiak is currently researching cloud computing to complement the company's high-performance grid architecture. With the cloud, it's about gaining computing and storage capabilities J&J didn't have in the past while avoiding big capital expenditures. Take drug discovery modeling applications, for example. "It's spike-type processing demand where we need maximum capacity, but then the ongoing capacity need is much lower," says Franckowiak. "We want to leverage our grid infrastructure with the cloud to find out what we could do."

At this point, he says, "we're open to which cloud provider to use." He mentions CycleCloud and Amazon, and is talking with IBM and Microsoft. "Amazon seems to be a bit ahead on fully working out the process on a small scale; the question is, how does it scale to the enterprise level?"

A recent HPCwire report notes that high-performance computing users "seem to be gravitating toward the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Amazon and its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) offering." The report also notes the growing list of providers: Verizon, Computer Sciences, Sun, Google, HP, AT&T and "dozens of smaller players."

- read the HPCwire report

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