Mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) holds promise as a transformative technology applied to biotechnology solutions such as cures for disease and more cost-effective biofuels production. However, broad application of MSI has been limited due to data files that are too large – from tens of gigabytes to many terabytes in size – to sort or even open in some cases.
OpenMSI, developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), leverages high performance computing to provide a web-based tool enabling collaborative research with MSI datasets in real time. Funded by DOE Office of Science – Advanced Scientific Computing Research, LBNL life sciences researcher Ben Bowen teamed with LBNL computational scientist Oliver Ruebel to overcome limitations of working with MSI datasets. The researchers pooled their respective biotechnology and programming expertise to create a gateway leveraging the supercomputing resources of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), the primary scientific computing center for DOE’s Office of Science, to process, analyze, and store enormous MSI datasets.
The gateway, called OpenMSI, enables researchers, even those without programming experience, to interact in real time with MSI datasets over a web browser using a user-friendly graphical interface. This standard-setting technology won a 2015 R&D 100 Award. ImaBiotech, a company supporting research to speed and improve drug candidate evaluations, licensed OpenMSI in 2016 to strengthen its business line in quantitative MSI analysis and make the tool more broadly available to biotech researchers.