Jeff Roach is always on the lookout for ways to improve the high-performance computations and data processing for scientific research at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. As Senior Scientific Research Associate in Information Technology Services/ Research Computing, he had been working with a team of Google engineers for a year when they introduced him to Techila Technologies, a Finnish startup that designed a computation engine that accelerates and automates data-intensive processing on Google Cloud . Rainer Wehkamp, Techila’s CEO, explains that the company partners with Google because “my engineers believe Google has the most technologically advanced cloud solutions.” And because Techila is already available through Google Cloud Marketplace, deployment was simple.
As a first project, Roach thought medical imaging would be a perfect fit: it requires large-scale computation and the ability to modify the calculations while in process. He set up a pilot with Wei-Tang Chang, Senior Research Associate in UNC’s Biomedical Research Imaging Center, who studies cortical layers of the brain through high-resolution functional magnetic resonance image (fMRI) datasets. Chang anticipated there would be benefits for researchers, clinicians, and patients: “While medical imaging with high spatial resolution provides more detailed information (i.e. higher sensitivity for diagnosis), it also increases the time that the patients need to stay in the scanner. By employing an imaging acceleration technique, we can reduce the scan time but patients and doctors need to wait longer for image reconstruction. With the computational acceleration of Techila and Google Cloud that issue could be greatly alleviated.”