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Google Partners with Global Alliance for Genomics and Health to Create Industry-Focused Cloud Services

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 09 Mar 2014
Image: Any of the apps at the top (one graphical, one command-line, and one for batch processing) can work with information in any of the repositories at the bottom (one using cloud-based storage and one using local files). As the ecosystem grows, all developers and researchers benefit from each individual developer’s work (Photo courtesy of Google).
Image: Any of the apps at the top (one graphical, one command-line, and one for batch processing) can work with information in any of the repositories at the bottom (one using cloud-based storage and one using local files). As the ecosystem grows, all developers and researchers benefit from each individual developer’s work (Photo courtesy of Google).
A global alliance for genomics and health has been established that is an international effort to develop a coordinated application to enable secure, accountable, and effective sharing of genomic and clinical data in the cloud with the research and healthcare communities, aiming to meet the highest standards of ethics and privacy.

Members of the Global Alliance include leading healthcare, technology, research, and disease advocacy organizations worldwide. Analyzing and interpreting research data are difficult as the volume increases, even though generating it is now simpler. This is particularly the case in the instance of genomics. Sequencing the whole genome of one person produces more than 100 gigabytes of raw data, and a million genomes will add up to more than 100 petabytes. The Human Genome Project, in 2003, completed after 15 years and USD 3 billion. Currently, it takes nearer to one day and USD 1,000 to sequence a human genome.

This profusion of new data has many great possibilities for research and human health—and requires new standards, policies, and technology. That is why Google (Mountain View, CA, USA) reported that the company has joined the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health. The Alliance is an international effort to develop harmonized approaches to enable responsible, secure, and effective sharing of genomic and clinical data in the cloud with the research and healthcare communities, meeting the highest standards of ethics and privacy. Members of the Global Alliance include leading technology, healthcare, research, and disease advocacy organizations worldwide.

To contribute to the genomics community and help meet the data-intensive needs of the life sciences, the alliance is introducing a proposal for a simple web-based application programming interface (API) to import, process, store, and search genomic data at scale; a preview implementation of the API built on Google’s cloud infrastructure, including sample data from public datasets such as the 1,000 Genomes Project; and a collection of in-progress open-source sample projects constructed around the common API.

According to Google spokespersons, with these initial steps, it is the company’s goal to support the global research community in bringing the vision of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health to realization. If researchers everywhere had larger sample sizes to differentiate between people who become ill and those who remain healthy, between patients who respond to treatment and those whose disorder deteriorates, between pathogens that cause outbreaks and those that are harmless, the impact to human health would be major. Moreover, they could assess biologic theories in seconds instead of days, without the need of a supercomputer.

Together with the members of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health, Google spokespersons stated that they believe this is the beginning of a revolution in healthcare and fundamental research, fueled by recent developments in genome sequencing and large-scale computing. Google is inviting scientists involved in the biotech community to contact them and share ideas about how to bring data science and life science together.

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