Taiwan SARS fight aided by telescience

June 26, 2003

San Diego, CA - Since February, more than 8000 cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and 600 deaths have been reported to the World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/csr/sars/en/). When Taiwan, one of the hardest hit regions, began looking for ways to help combat the spread of the virus, they recognized the potential value of Telescience technologies developed by UCSD affiliates, and contacted the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research (NCMIR) for help.

Taiwan's National Center for High-Performance Computing (NCHC), a participant in the Pacific Rim Applications and Grid Middleware Assembly (PRAGMA, http://www.pragma-grid.org), is integrating hardware and software to aide physicians in Taiwan. They asked for assistance to set up a system that would allow for the real-time exchange of diagnostic information, including high-resolution X-rays, numerical instrument readings, and audio/video discussions, while protecting medical professionals from exposure to SARS. Several hospitals had been quarantined due to SARS outbreaks, leaving a gap in healthcare services and the potential for the spread of the virus.

PRAGMA affiliate and NCMIR Director Mark H. Ellisman, Ph.D. immediately recognized the potential to leverage Telescience technologies, especially the Telescience Portal, towards an effective and reliable data exchange system for the medical community.

"In conjunction with NSF's National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI), NCMIR scientists are building an integrated environment, accessible through a Web interface - the Telescience Portal - where remote instrument control, grid computing, visualization software and federated digital image databases converge and are seamlessly orchestrated to provide a high-performance analysis environment for complex applications like electron tomography," indicated Ellisman. "We are pleased that we could extend our leading edge research technologies to quickly assist with this critical health issue." (For more information on the Telescience Portal, visit http://ncmir.ucsd.edu/Telescience/.)

Since the Taiwanese request two weeks ago, NCMIR's computer scientists have leveraged the Telescience Portal architecture to build a preliminary SARS equivalent that will begin to address the needs of Taiwan's distributed medical establishment. This adapted "SARS Research Portal" system includes access to NPACI's Storage Resource Broker, a tool for managing data between locations, and standard image processing software for manipulating common radiology images. These resources will help the Taiwanese medical sector to manage their distributed patient data and will compliment technologies for collaborating on patient diagnosis.

Telescience technologies are also a significant component of the Biomedical Informatics Research Network, a major project of NIH's National Center for Research Resources and the United States Department of Health and Human Services, for sharing neuroimaging data to accelerate the study of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. The PRAGMA partnership is supported by the National Science Foundation, and by member organizations.

The Telescience team is actively working with NCHC scientists to install this Telescience-inspired portal on machines in Taiwan to be included in the NCHC environment (http://sarsgrid.nchc.org.tw).

Figure 1: Computer Scientist Abel Lin studies X-ray data to develop standards for its use in the SARS Research Portal system.

Figure 2: A screen shot of the developing SARS Research Portal shows the environment that will facilitate diagnostic collaboration among Taiwan physicians. These tools will include NPACI's Storage Resource Broker, a tool for managing data between locations, and standard image processing software for manipulating common radiology images.
Media Contact:
Patricia Maas, National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, pmaas@ncmir.ucsd.edu
Office: 858-822-0755, Cell: 619-246-8747

University of California - San Diego

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