Genomics in the Cloud

If there is one thing that requires mountains of data, storage, and security, it is scientific research. Through extensive steps and countless trials, data is generated at an astounding rate. The importance of then maintaining this data in an easily accessible location is paramount, not to mention the security and storage requirements that are necessary for data that is proprietary if not potentially patentable. These are real concerns for those deeply embedded within the ranks of scientific research to which specialists in data, cloud, security, and storage can apply expertise.

"Today in the journal Nature prominent researchers from Canada, Europe and the U.S. have made a powerful call to major funding agencies, asking them to commit to establishing a global genomic data commons in the cloud that could be easily accessed by authorized researchers worldwide."

Currently, communication of genomics data tends to be a tedious and cumbersome ordeal, at least compared to its potential fluidity and quickness if accessed through resources based in the cloud. Both time and cost could benefit from storage practices which emphasized an off-premises approach, intensifying the levels of speed at which global integration of knowledge can occur, a major plus in a scientific discipline that is undeniably globally reaching. Furthermore, to dissuade security concerns, it has been shown that storing such data in the cloud is as secure if not more secure than on-prem methods of data storage.

"With a typical university connection it can take months to download datasets from major international projects like the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) and the hardware costs associated with storing and processing those data can also prove quite expensive. With cloud computing a data set from a big genome project can be executed in days, at a fraction of the price."

The bustling rate of growth of the quantity of these data sets makes a move to the cloud an imminent topic of discussion, as so much of this research is heavily dependent on the integrity of the data maintained. As quantity expands, price will follow; along with security and time concerns.

"Currently a great deal of valuable time and money is spent by researchers transferring data from a repository to their own preferred server, instead of easily and cheaply tapping into a global data commons whenever they need to," said Dr. Lincoln Stein, Director of the Informatics and Bio-computing Program at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, leader of the ICGC's Data Coordination Center in Toronto and a lead author on the paper. "We encourage a larger investment in the cloud in order to use public funds more effectively and to help accelerate the pace of genomics research."

Tech (and more specifically cloud storage) are products of scientific innovation. Now positioned to augment the ability of genomic scientists to collaborate, produce, and securely maintain their work, this is simply one example of cloud storage infrastructure’s extension outside of the consumer-based bubble, an example that we hope to see repeated progressively in a diverse array of contexts.

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