Google is going to forever change how the scientific community conducts research on DNA with its latest cloud computing service, Google Genomics.
According to the product’s official site,”Google Genomics provides an API to store, process, explore, and share DNA sequence reads, reference-based alignments, and variant calls, using Google’s cloud infrastructure.”
Despite only recently grabbing the media’s attention in-force, Genomics was unveiled last March. The MIT Technology Review reports that the launch flew under the radar due to a high number of other announcements released by Google during that time.
For $25 a year, Google will store an entire human genome, which roughly equates to 100 gigabytes of raw data. However, storing a much more refined version of the same genome will only cost about $0.25 cents. Running Genomic queries, which includes alignment slicing, variant lookups and dataset management, will cost an extra $1. The product is already active and its potential is hard to go unnoticed.
In addition to more than 3,000 genomes that currently reside in the Google Genomics Cloud, the National Cancer Institute pledged $19 million to fund a project between Google and the Institute for Systems Biology that will transfer all the genetic data housed in the Cancer Genome Atlas (2.6 petabytes) to Google’s Cloud Platform.
So why is Google bringing Cloud technology to genetic research? David Glazer, former head of platform engineering for Google+ and a leader in the development of Genomics, noticed that, “We saw biologists moving from studying one genome at a time to studying millions. The opportunity is how to apply breakthroughs in data technology to help with this transition.”
Google seized this opportunity and joined the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (Global Alliance). The organization brings together more than 220 institutions working in healthcare, research, disease advocacy, life science, and information technology to securely share genetic and clinical data; ultimately increasing the potential of genomic medicine.
Before Google Genomics, researchers could only work with the limited amount of data their facility was capable of physically storing. Actually computing and pulling valuable information from this data would be another daunting task in itself. With Google Genomics, scientists have access to petabytes of virtual data in the Google Genomics cloud. Coupled with a new API, there will be no need to understand technical details; you need only to simply run queries in an environment similar to a search bar, and gather meaningful results.
In a post on Google’s research blog, project manager Jonathan Bingham painted a promising image for the future of genetic research.
He noted, “Imagine the impact if researchers everywhere had larger sample sizes to distinguish between people who become sick and those who remain healthy, between patients who respond to treatment and those whose condition worsens, between pathogens that cause outbreaks and those that are harmless. Imagine if they could test biological hypotheses in seconds instead of days, without owning a supercomputer.”
Bingham also commented,“Together with the members of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health, we believe we are at the beginning of a transformation in medicine and basic research, driven by advances in genome sequencing and huge-scale computing.”
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