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Pilot Projects Initiated to Create Cancer Genomics Cloud

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 03 Feb 2014
The US National Cancer Institute (NCI; Rockville, MD, USA) has allotted USD 20 million for cloud-based genomics pilot projects, realizing that it is faced with rising data struggles. Because the scale of its projects increases—one initiative is expected to generate 2.5 petabytes of data—downloading analysis findings on local systems becomes unrealistic.

The NCI is now seeking organizations that can help in its goals, having spent 2013 collecting on user feedback oh what they need from cloud-based cancer genomics. The plan is to promote the development of multiple pilot projects that will undergo a competitive assessment. The NCI, after consulting with cancer researchers, will select one or more of the projects, or a modification of them, as the production version. Finally, the project will be sourced into a Cancer Knowledge Commons that aggregates all data.

The last phase of the project is to optimize NCI-generated data access by decreasing the technical requirements for researchers. Data are downloaded, in the current system, for analysis with locally developed and run tools. The dependence on local systems translates into organizations without top-tier computing power and capabilities can do less with the data. Correspondingly, storing petabytes of data is impractical for some groups. With data pools growing quickly, storage costs will also increase.

The NCI views cloud-based genomics systems will serve as the solution. Storing data and running analysis tools in the cloud will lessen the computing power needed for end users to search for clues in the results. Even prominent research institutions should benefit from using a cloud-based system, as data download times are on the cusp of becoming impractical. Using a point-to-point 10-gigabit network, downloading the 2.5 petabytes generated by the Cancer Genome Atlas would take weeks.

The NCI’s new initiative will be, as aforementioned, the first step toward the establishment of a full Cancer Knowledge Commons, relative to the US National Academy report on Precision Medicine, and will be coordinated with the National Institutes of Health’s (Bethesda, MD, USA) Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative and other pertinent activities in large-scale data analysis.

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