UT Southwestern scientists have created a data-sharing platform which can serve as an analytic tool in cancer and infectious disease research. The free, web-based portal is now accessible at UT Austin’s Texas Advanced Computing Center.
Named the VDJServer, the portal provides a data-management framework and analytic devices to study immune repertoires, which is the immune system’s ability to create proteins that recognize disease-causing pathogens.
Three UT Southwestern faculty members–Dr. Lindsay Cowell, Dr. Nancy Monson, and Dr. Richard Scheuermann–developed the idea and partnered with computational experts at the TACC and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to launch the project in late 2016.
The portal was created after Cowell, Monson, and Scheuermann recognized the need in the scientific community for computational tools to facilitate the analysis of the immune repertoire. Over one year, the team compiled case analyses and planned basic infrastructure development for the web interface.
This model, Cowell said, is to provide access to “sophisticated computational tools for analyzing immune repertoires in a high-performance computing environment for researchers who currently lack such access, particularly experimental scientists and clinical researchers without bioinformatics training.”
Scientists and basic researchers are able to access a vast network of data on diseases focusing on the immune system through the VDJServer.
Cowell said the team is continuing to find ways to improve the portal. It’s currently working on designing algorithms that enable increases “in the size of the data sets that are analyzed, or even to incorporate new kinds of computations.”