Researchers to use Google cloud to aid in genome analysis

Analytics tools and cloud platform to be used on genetics data

broad institute biotech
Credit: Len Rubenstein/Broad Institute

Researchers at MIT and Harvard are partnering with Google to use its cloud platform to take genomic data and use it to find cures to diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

Google today announced the collaboration with the Broad Institute, a Cambridge, Mass.-based biomedical and genomic research center that partners with MIT and Harvard.

"To deal with genomic information at scale, the life science community needs new technologies to store, process, explore, and share," wrote Jonathan Bingham, Google Genomics product manager, in a blog post. "Through our collaboration with Broad Institute and our work with the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health and the life science community, we believe we can make a difference in improving human health."

Using the cloud to store, analyze and share major amounts of data, will help make it easier for researchers to find answers among mounds of information, Bingham said.

broad institute cloud Len Rubenstein/Broad Institute

"We hope to unleash scientific creativity that could significantly improve our understanding of health and disease," he added. "We are at the beginning of a genomics-driven healthcare revolution, and it's a privilege to be contributing to it with organizations like the Broad."

The Broad Institute, for example, has collected more than 1.4 million biological samples. With so much complicated data, the issue is how to put all of that data to use.

Google said it will make tools available that power its search and Maps services to help with this job. It also will develop new tools.

"In order to scale up by the next order of magnitude, Broad and Google will work together to explore how to build new tools and find new insights to propel biomedical research, using deep bioinformatics expertise, powerful analytics, and massive computing infrastructure," wrote Bingham.

Eric Lander, president and director of the Broad Institute, said he's eager to work with Google to empower researchers from around the world and to make it easier for them to access and use genomic information.

"Large-scale genomic information is accelerating scientific progress in cancer, diabetes, psychiatric disorders and many other diseases," said Lander in a statement. "Storing, analyzing and managing these data is becoming a critical challenge for biomedical researchers."

Geneticists have increasingly been using the cloud to analyze thousands of individual genome sequences to help doctors create individualized treatments for their patients, as well as to push forward large-scale research efforts.

Doctors have been working with the cloud, such as Amazon's Web Services (AWS) platform, to use patients' individual genetics, along with their personal information like age, health, family history and physical fitness, to determine whether one chemotherapy treatment would work better than others.

Doctors also can use a tumor's specific genetic makeup to find the best treatment to kill it.

This personalized medicine requires compute power, the ability to store massive data loads, and the ability for doctors and researchers around the globe to feed information into it and share it.

The cloud computing increasingly is the answer that researchers are turning to.

For the Broad Institute and Google, their first joint project is a managed service that makes the Genome Analysis Toolkit available on the Google cloud platform, enabling a limited set of users to convert raw genomic data into information about genetic variants. The institute's Genome Analysis Toolkit will use Google Genomics, the company's cloud service for life sciences research.

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