Apple has won praise for helping push forward the frontiers of biomedical research.

Software developed by Apple’s Advanced Computation Group (ACG) has vastly improved a search algorithm used by geneticists mapping DNA patterns.

The ACG develops advanced applications for the science, education, and engineering sectors, as well as for general algorithm development pertinent to Mac OS, especially the Velocity Engine.

Its latest work has been on BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool), powerful software that analyses DNA sequences, aiding biomedical research and helping with new-drug discoveries.

ACG's implementation of BLAST was developed in collaboration with DNA-technology company Genentech and the Stanford University Genetics Department. ACG's work has made BLAST up to five times faster that the version originally created by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

David Botstein, Ph.D professor and chair of the Stanford University Genetics Department said: "Apple and Genentech have dramatically increased the performance of an important tool that biomedical researchers use every day.

"I’m impressed and delighted that a machine that a regular scientist can afford and run, such as the Power Mac G4, is as fast, or faster, than the industry standard BLAST running on more expensive machines."

Many common gene-searches using BLAST on a dual-1GHz G4 Power Mac can deliver over five times the performance of a comparable 2GHz Pentium 4-based system.

ACG's souped-up BLAST takes advantage of the PowerPC G4 processor with Velocity Engine that performs multiple operations per clock cycle. This enables large amounts of information from genome, protein and DNA sequencing projects to be analyzed.

Richard Scheller, Ph.D. senior vice president of research at Genentech said: "We’re pleased to have collaborated with Apple on this project, and to be able to make these performance improvements more widely available to the scientific community through the NCBI and Apple’s ACG.

"The Apple/Genentech BLAST will allow researchers to more efficiently utilize genomic information in basic biomedical research and drug discovery."

Apple is offering this advanced version of BLAST as Open Source software. The code for Apple's BLAST, as well as analyses of its performance, are available for download.