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Vodafone DreamLab: The app to help cure cancer

The stats are unquestionably sad: about one in three New Zealanders will be affected by cancer in their lifetime. That’s more than 1.5 million people.

Efforts to cure cancer have been ongoing for centuries, of course – and one thing those efforts have in common is they almost always use the latest technologies (or develop new technologies) to do so. A new initiative in Aotearoa is no exception.

Vodafone and the Vodafone Foundation have teamed up to launch an app which harnesses the processing power of smartphones to speed up cancer research – and all while people sleep or otherwise aren’t using their phones. Research has begun to understand cancer based on a patient’s DNA profile, but hampering the speed of that genetic profiling is the lack of access to computer processing power.

That’s where the Vodafone DreamLab app comes in. Essentially, the app turns mobile phones into a virtual supercomputer network to crunch complex genetic data, hopefully speeding up the search for a cure. And, it’s done while users sleep, since the app runs in the background of a phone’s other applications.

While the Vodafone DreamLab app can be used by everyone in New Zealand with a smartphone, it will not use the data Vodafone mobile customers might have on their data plan. The app also works on WiFi.

Vodafone CEO Russell Stanners says the app is an example of using tech for good. “Finding a cure is so important for all of us, and the beauty of the Vodafone DreamLab app is that the more Kiwis who download and use it, the faster it crunches data, and the closer researchers can get to find a cure.”

Vodafone Foundation manager Lani Evans says it’s been heartening to see the support the app has already received. She adds the app was developed with the support of the Australian-based Garvan Institute of Medical Research, which has pioneered world-class cancer genomics research. “Based on our tests adding just 33 new devices to the Vodafone DreamLab app enables the analysis of the same amount of data as quickly as a single CPU core of a typical research organisation’s in-house supercomputer.”

Garvan Institute Cancer Researcher Dr Samantha Oakes says it’s only through medical research that cancer can be solved. “Medical research generates a vast amount of complex data and information that must be analysed in order to make the next discovery. Smartphones now offer a tremendous opportunity to speed up research and unravel more of the cancer puzzle.”

Organisations that have pledged their support for the app include Westpac, Coca-Cola, SwipedOn, The Salavation Army, Ray White, Colmar Brunton, FCB NZ, NZME, and the Vodafone Warriors rugby league team.

The app, previously available in other markets including Australia and the UK, can be downloaded at www.vodafone.co.nz/dreamlab. It is available at the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

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