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Stanford, Google Partner on Genomic Health Analysis

DNA in hand

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

9 August 2016. Stanford University’s medical departments and Google’s cloud service are collaborating on a plan to make genomics a more routine part of health care. Financial aspects of the partnership making Google Inc. a business associate of Stanford Medicine were not disclosed.

The agreement calls for Stanford Medicine — including the university’s medical school, as well as general and children’s hospitals — to adopt Google Cloud Platform as the underlying technology for its upcoming clinical genomics service. That service is expected to store, analyze, and share large-scale genomic data sets. The collaboration includes development of cloud-based applications for both research and patient care.

Stanford and Google, which also offers a commercial genomic analysis service, aim to make it possible for clinicians to order genetic testing when faced with the possibility of a mutation causing unusual symptoms in a patient. Euan Ashley, a Stanford cardiologist designated as director of the clinical genomic service, plans to make requesting genomic sequencing as standard as ordering a blood test.

“Genetic testing is built into the whole system,” says Ashley in a Stanford Medicine statement. “The DNA gets sequenced and a large amount of data comes back.” Cloud-based software then will analyze the data, identifying potential genetic variants underlying the patient’s condition, followed by consultations between geneticists and the physician. “As the new service launches,” adds Ashley, “we’ll be doing hundreds and then thousands of genome sequences.”

As use of the system increases, genomic data will be accumulated in the system, supplemented by patients’ electronic medical records, digitized MRI and CT scan images, and data from wearable devices such as fitness trackers. All of these data, says Stanford, will be stored by Google and shared with protections required by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. Under HIPAA, encryption is required for storing, as well as sharing data. In addition, all data will be stored on servers in the U.S.

The alliance with Google is also expected to support Stanford Medicine’s goal of adopting more precision health outcomes for both research and individual patients. “In the past few years, the amount of available data about health care has exploded,” notes Lloyd Minor, dean of Stanford’s medical school. “While researchers are learning to integrate this big data, putting it to work for individual patients, in real time, is a huge challenge. Our collaboration with Google will help us to meet this challenge.”

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