Google Genomics, Google’s cloud-based platform that helps the science community store, process, and manage large swathes of genomic data, has partnered with Broad Institute, a biomedical and genomic research hub based in Massachusetts.
The crux of the partnership centers on improving DNA analysis to help cure diseases through more tailored, personalized healthcare based on an individual’s DNA makeup. To achieve this will require a gargantuan amount of data to establish how various treatments impact a specific DNA profile, and this requires the power of cloud-computing.
A number of other big tech firms are looking to muscle their way into the potentially lucrative business, including Amazon and Microsoft, but generating and storing data is only part of the solution to improving healthcare — sense must also be made of the data. Broad Institute, which has close affiliations with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard, will be the scientific brains behind the computing brawn, so to speak.
“Large-scale genomic information is accelerating scientific progress in cancer, diabetes, psychiatric disorders and many other diseases,” explains Eric Lander, president and director of Broad Institute. “Storing, analyzing and managing these data is becoming a critical challenge for biomedical researchers.”
Google and Broad Institute will collaborate on new tools “to propel biomedical research, using deep bioinformatics expertise, powerful analytics, and massive computing infrastructure,” according to a blog post earlier today.
The first joint product to emerge from the Google / Broad tie-up will involve bringing Broad Institute’s Genome Analysis Toolkit (GATK) to the Google Cloud Platform and offered as a service. For the uninitiated, the GATK software analyzes “high-throughput genomic sequencing data,” and it has been made available for a while already for free to academics and other non-profit users. More than 20,000 users have processed genomic data through the software to date.
Though the Google Cloud-based version of the service is limited in availability initially, the long-term vision is to let any genomic researcher add, store, and analyse data in the cloud.
Today’s news is the latest in a long line of partnership announcements as the cloud computing titans battle it out to grab the biggest names in medicine and research. Back in March, we reported on how Google hopes to use big data and machine-learning to aid drug discovery. Working with Stanford University, Google published a paper on how using data from different sources can better determine which chemical compounds will serve as “effective drug treatments for a variety of diseases.”
A couple of weeks back, Microsoft announced Project Premonition, which involves using smart traps and drones to capture and transport mosquitoes to help prevent future disease outbreaks. Working with academics from the likes of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, part of the project involves identifying diseases and, using recent developments in molecular biology and genetic sequencing, scientists can create cloud-based databases of their research.
In the simplest terms, the cloud computing companies provide the infrastructure, and the academics provide the analytical methodology.