Paving the Way for the Internet of Genomes

I wrote recently about an innovative project to conduct virtual clinical trials in the hunt for Parkinson's treatments. It's a process known as 'in silico medicine' and involves computer simulations of the human body.

Such innovative approaches could make a huge difference to the way medical research is conducted, but they do largely rely on a suitable quantity of data to operate. So it's interesting to see the launch of Canadian genomics company DNAstack recently.

Genetics in the cloud

The company provide a cloud based platform that they hope will accelerate genetic research by providing researchers with an easy to use tool for conducting genomics data analysis. Researchers can also easily share their findings, thus helping to make sense of the rapidly growing pool of genomics data around the world.

Users can conduct this storage, analysis and sharing of genomics datasets for free, with the company hoping to accelerate best practice bioinformatics and encourage data sharing. The only costs involved are the cloud storage costs, delivered via Google Cloud, for the data itself. The ultimate aim is for an 'internet of genomes' to be formed to help connect up data sharing organizations from around the world.

"The internet has vastly improved our ability to share and learn from a global knowledge base that grows in real-time," the team say. "But for the most part, due to a lack of standards and simple web-accessible tools to adopt them, genomics data have been siloed from the most effective medium we have for sharing information, the internet."

The Internet of Genomes

The path from the initial science to market is infamously long and perilous, and the company believe that they can expedite the process significantly.

The company have developed the Beacon Network, which is one of the largest search engines in the world for publicly shared genetic variants, so they have a track record in making data more shareable.

The platform is already being used by a number of research institutions in Canada, and the hope is to rapidly expand the network of users.

"The genomes of patients with rare and complex disorders are unique," said Dr. Stephen Scherer, Director of The Centre for Applied Genomics at The Hospital for Sick Children and the Autism Speaks MSSNG Genome Sequencing Project. "Collection, sharing, and analysis of millions of genomes will be necessary to develop a precise understanding of the genetic underpinnings of disease. DNAstack is developing much-needed technologies to support advancement in disease research through its integrated solution that marries analytical software tools with emerging global standards for open-science and collaboration."