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Super computer for drugs industry

Chip has capability of 100 standard computers


story.proteus.jpg
Darran Nathan (left) and three of his fellow team members (from left) Phillip Wong, Kelvin Lim and Andreas Weisensee
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SINGAPORE (CNN) -- A group of researchers from Singapore has created a computer chip that has the power of 100 standard computers.

The group of five, all working at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, will commercialize their development by January and sell it to the pharmaceutical industry, where they say the invention will save time and money.

Lead researcher Darran Nathan, 24, explains that unlike standard computer chips, which function using software, his is based on a computer's hardware.

"An ordinary computer chip will interpret instructions from the software and execute a command," he says.

"Our chip is a reconfigurable chip, which means it downloads an actual file to the chip and rewires it according to subsequent processing done in the hardware."

Nathan says the process is highly technical but, put simply, is a computer chip that works at a speed of 100 standard computers combined.

He says the super chip was originally created with the telecommunications industry in mind, but soon after work on the project began two years ago, they realized the benefits would be much more useful to life sciences.

"It is 100 times quicker than your standard computer. Most people do not need such a powerful computer, but in the area of designing and developing drugs, it is hugely important," says Nathan.

"It basically means getting essential drugs on the street quicker, at a cheaper cost."

Nathan says the device will cost between US$30,000 and US$61,000, and its key point of difference between other supercomputers is its small size.

The team, which calls itself Project Proteus, after the shape-shifting Greek god, are aged between 24 and 27.

Last week they showcased their chip at the Global Entrepolis convention in Singapore where Mr Nathan says they received a lot of positive feedback.


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