Harnessing scientific computing to further medicine

Professor Kevin Naidoo and Dr Jahanshah Ashkani analysing genomic data on a video wall in the Scientific Computing Research Unit Informatics and Visualisation Laboratory. (Supplied)

Professor Kevin Naidoo and Dr Jahanshah Ashkani analysing genomic data on a video wall in the Scientific Computing Research Unit Informatics and Visualisation Laboratory. (Supplied)

The worlds of computing and biology merge in the laboratories of Professor Kevin Naidoo at the University of Cape Town, where he is developing computational and informatics software to build algorithmic solutions that are useful to chemists and biologists.

This high-end research is undertaken by the Scientific Computing Research Unit he established and is supported through the Research Chair in Scientific Computing that has been operating since 2007.

He says the Chair has been instrumental in enabling him and his students to push the boundaries of research in his laboratory, which is one of a select few that has informatics and modelling capabilities.

He says the long-term support of the Chair has allowed him to undertake cutting-edge work into, for example, understanding how cancer works. He has applied informatics to interrogate cancer sub-types to isolate the key signature of a tumour. This helps to identify the treatment appropriate for a particular cancer.

Naidoo has made significant advances in the use of computational methods and software, for which he has registered a number of patents and developed world-class solutions.

One such breakthrough is the partnership established with technology company NVIDIA Corporation to produce software that complements the processing power of the company’s graphical processing units.

This provides scientists with unprecedented power to improve their speed and capabilities in developing new pharmaceuticals. On top of this groundbreaking work, Naidoo has strengthened locally developed intellectual property by registering a number of patents on his work. He is also constantly publishing research papers that he says elevate the reputation of South African science as a leading participant in the global science community.