explainer

There's an app that helps you fight cancer while you sleep. Here's what you need to know.

Vodafone Foundation: Supporting DreamLab
Thanks to our brand partner, Vodafone Foundation: Supporting DreamLab

It’s the statistic none of us like to think about, but unfortunately we can’t avoid: one in two Australians will be affected by cancer in their lifetime.  

Imagine if there was some small way to help… all while you slept.     

Sound like something from a sci-fi movie?   

Well, it’s not.

Find out more about the DreamLab app. Post continues below. 


“Medical research is the key to solving cancer but one thing slowing progress is the limited access researchers have to supercomputers to crunch their complex data,” Rebecca Murray, Vodafone Foundation Board Member, tells Mamamia.

“With smartphones outnumbering the number of people in our country, Vodafone Foundation saw a great opportunity to create Australia’s first smartphone supercomputer,” says Murray.

But... how can my smartphone help?

“Think of your smartphone as a small but powerful computer,” Murray explains.

“When it’s idle — like when you’re asleep at night — that power goes untapped.

“DreamLab puts that power to use for good to fast-track cancer research.''

“Each phone downloads tiny research problems and calculates them, and then sends the results back to the research team at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research,” explains Murray.

But how does this help fight cancer?

The Garvan Institute has a huge research project, called Project Demystify, in the cloud. This project has over 26 million different micro-problems that need crunching in order to understand and make sense of the data.

Dr Warren Kaplan, Head of the Data Sciences Platform at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and lead of the Project Demystify team tells Mamamia, “We’re generating more data than ever before, which needs ever-increasing computing resources and novel approaches to answer the many questions we’d like to ask of our data." 

“DreamLab gives us free access to a dedicated virtual supercomputer to accelerate our cancer research, giving hope to patients and their families, and even enabling them to contribute directly to our work by installing DreamLab on their phones.”

Project Demystify seeks to understand cancer based on a patient’s DNA profile, rather than the tissue in which their cancer originated.

So, one of the problems that your phone could help solve is comparing a tiny part of genetic information from a breast cancer patient to that of a pancreatic cancer patient.

ADVERTISEMENT

DreamLab conducts a calculation (using a unique algorithm developed by Garvan Institute researchers) to understand what is similar and different genetically between these two patients.

Patterns in the calculations will help researchers identify patients who share similar DNA mutation profiles, even though they might have ‘different’ cancers.

When you power DreamLab, you’re downloading one of these 26 million problems to crunch - using your phone’s own computing power.

So far, the DreamLab app has been downloaded by almost one million smartphone users in 17 countries to help speed up scientific research. 

All while you rest your weary head on your pillow at night! It can’t get any better than that… or can it?

In 2020, DreamLab teamed up with Imperial College London, where they are looking at ways to accelerate their search for drugs and ‘Hyperfoods’ that could potentially help people affected by COVID-19, using the power of peoples’ smartphones while they sleep.

The study, called Corona-AI, has examined thousands of existing drug and food molecules, using Artificial Intelligence to crunch 100 million mathematical calculations and help scientists explore their potential effect on COVID-19 to publish in a peer-reviewed journal.

Will it cost me anything?

“For Vodafone customers, the mobile data to use DreamLab is free on the Vodafone Australia network. It won’t even appear on your bill and it won’t count towards your monthly data allowance,” says Murray from Vodafone.

What if I am with a different provider?

“You can choose to use DreamLab over your Wi-Fi, or your mobile network,” she says.

“But you’re in control and can set a monthly limit as DreamLab will keep solving problems until it reaches the data limit you have set, then it will pause.

“We are incredibly passionate about DreamLab and the Garvan Institute's ground-breaking research it is supporting,” Iñaki Berroeta, Chief Executive Officer, tells Mamamia.

“The more people who download DreamLab, the faster Garvan can complete its research, so we’ve made the data it uses free for all Vodafone customers.”

So why not make your dreams mean something? Download the DreamLab app today on Android or iOS.

Feature Image: Getty.

Vodafone Foundation: Supporting DreamLab
Vodafone Foundation currently supports the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Hello Sunday Morning and Infoxchange, grants and in kind support for smart technology to help Australians lead healthier lives.

Vodafone Foundation currently supports the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Hello Sunday Morning and Infoxchange, grants and in kind support for smart technology to help Australians lead healthier lives.