High Performance Computing for DNA Sequence Alignment and Assembly

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Recent advances in DNA sequencing technology have dramatically increased the scale and scope of DNA sequencing. These data are used for a wide variety of important biological analyzes, including genome sequencing, comparative genomics, transcriptome analysis, and personalized medicine but are complicated by the volume and complexity of the data involved. Given the massive size of these datasets, computational biology must draw on the advances of high performance computing.

Two fundamental computations in computational biology are read alignment and genome assembly. Read alignment maps short DNA sequences to a reference genome to discover conserved and polymorphic regions of the genome. Genome assembly computes the sequence of a genome from many short DNA sequences. Both computations benefit from recent advances in high performance computing to efficiently process the huge datasets involved, including using highly parallel graphics processing units (GPUs) as high performance desktop processors, and using the MapReduce framework coupled with cloud computing to parallelize computation to large compute grids. This dissertation demonstrates how these technologies can be used to accelerate these computations by orders of magnitude, and have the potential to make otherwise infeasible computations practical.