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WAMC News

Berkshire County Looks to Become Bioinformatics Hub

By Charlie Deitz

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-961352.mp3

Pittsfield, MA – College students in Berkshire County will soon have a chance to learn about the emerging field of bioinformatics thanks to a county native. WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief Charlie Deitz reports that three colleges will be working together on advances in cancer treatment

At the Pittsfield Intermodal Center, Nuclea Biotechnology's Founder and president made a much anticipated announcement.

"People that learn about high performance computing at all college levels will have their world opened up to them."

Muracca's company researches the effects of various cancer treatments by analyzing human tissue samples and logging thousands of different cell characteristics into a high tech computing hub known as a cluster. Nuclea will be putting versions of these clusters at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Berkshire Community College, where he graduated from, as well as Clark University in Worcester, where he also graduated from. Muracca explains that the new partnership will be a win-win.

"Nuclea will utilize the clusters for its own use plus we will utilize the clusters as an educational opportunity."

The clusters cost about 100 thousand dollars each, and BCC president Doctor Paul Raverta points out just how powerful the new hubs will be.

"Can store 7 trillion bytes of data like running 64 desktop computers in tandem."

BCC has been working with Nuclea for two years already by offering summer life science training institutes, and now adds this element to their growing science offerings. MCLA president Doctor Mary Grant, who sits on what's called the Berkshire STEM (Science technology Engineering and math) Pipeline says this is their first partnership with Nuclea.

MCLA is in the process of building a 50 million dollar center for science and innovation, which once completed in 2014, will house the bioinformatics cluster.

Massachusetts Life Science Center is a statewide program that promotes the industry through grants and outreach, their vice president Beth Nicklas was on hand to comment on the need for well trained bioinformatics experts in the modern workforce.

"If they don't understand, they don't know how to use bioinformatics, we can't move forward."

Afterward Nicklas was optimistic that the western region of the Commonwealth has a chance to compete with the life sciences hub of Boston.

The new college based clusters are expected to increase Nuclea's output by 50 percent, meaning more progress in researching cancer treatments while giving students the ability to learn in tandem.