A partnership between Google and the Broad Institute to improve genetic analysis

Larry Page in the European Parliament in 2009
Larry Page in the European Parliament in 2009

In recent days, Google and the Broad Institute, a genomics and biomedical research center founded by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Harvard University, announced a collaboration in the field of genomics. The Broad Institute’s Genome Analysis Toolkit (GATK) will be offered as a service of Google’s Cloud Platform as part of the Google Genomics project. This will allow researchers to combine the center’s tools of genomic analysis with Google’s computing power.

Google and the Broad Institute have already indirect links. In March 2015, a collaboration was announced between Calico (California Life Company) and the Broad Institute. Calico is a company whose ultimate goal is to defeat death and was created by Google with an announcement by its co-founder and CEO Larry Page (photo ©Marcin Mycielski) himself.

In 2013, the Broad Institute was one of the founders of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH). It’s an international effort to develop approaches to allow a harmonized approaches to enable responsible, secure, and effective sharing of genomic and clinical information in the cloud with the research and healthcare communities. The members of this alliance use the cloud as a tool for data sharing keeping a great attention on ethics and privacy. Google joined the alliance in early 2014.

Shortly after joining GA4GH, Google also launched another initiative related to genomics, Google Genomics, which uses Google’s Cloud Platform to optimize the management of genetic testing. The Broad Institute’s GATK includes a set of software tools exactly for genetic analysis focused primarily on the identification of mutations and genotyping.

Combining Google and the Broad Institute’s resources is the perfect solution. DNA sequencing produces enormous amount of data as that of a single person can generate over 100 gigabytes of raw data. This means that a genetic analysis, for example to find a mutation associated with a disease, is still a very heavy task. Google’s Cloud Platform offers enormous computing power to perform that kind analysis quickly.

Thanks to this agreement, researchers who want to use the GATK won’t have to create their own infrastructure but can use it in Google Genomics. They will have at their disposal powerful tools always updated and accessible anywhere. In this way, they can focus on the actual genetic research, which consequently can proceed much more quickly.

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