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Broad, Google Partner on Genomic Analysis Platform

Big data graphic

(DARPA, Wikimedia Commons)

24 June 2015. The Broad Institute, a molecular medicine research organization affiliated with Harvard University and MIT, and Google Genomics are collaborating to offer a readily-available cloud-based analysis platform for genomic data. Financial aspects of the agreement between Broad Institute — officially Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard — and Google were not disclosed.

The partnership aims to make genomic analysis easier to access for medical researchers, by offering analytical tools from Broad Institute on a computing platform with sufficient scale and power to process the huge data files produced in genomics. The first step in the collaboration will make available Broad Institute’s Genome Analysis Toolkit on Google’s Cloud Platform.

The Genome Analysis Toolkit is a set of software designed to process different types and collections of genomic data to answer questions from the data for researchers. The specialized software features, called walkers, can be assembled into workflow packages to handle common analytical questions or unique one-off problems. The tools, says Broad, can be applied to genomes from humans as well as other organisms.

The software tools include processing of raw sequencing data for further analysis, as well as discovery, genotyping or characterizing, and filtering of genetic variations from the data. Broad Institute says it logged some 20,000 users of the toolkit, sequencing or genotyping the equivalent of 1.4 million biological samples. Academic and not-for-profit labs can download the software free of charge, while licenses are available to business users.

Google’s Cloud Platform offers cloud-based big data services from hosting and storage of data sets to analytics. The partnership with Broad Institute aims to make it easier for researchers to upload, store, access, and process genomic data, particularly where their own institutions may not have the large-scale infrastructure needed to efficiently run the Genome Analysis Toolkit software.

While hosting the Genome Analysis Toolkit is the first stage in the agreement between Broad Institute and Google Genomics, the parties expect to expand the services over time. In a blog post published today, Google Genomics product manager Jonathan Bingham says “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.”

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