Using the cloud to supercharge genomic analysis

This is an amazing story about how the Google compute engine is changing the way genomes are sequenced and explored.

My regular readers know that my priority is helping you understand the wonder and scope of technology as it relates to healthcare. I don't spend time chasing the latest news story. Instead, I try to bring you really interesting stories, give you food for thought, help give you good reason to consider a career in health IT, and inspire you with what's possible when melding the fields of health and IT.

Nothing really shows this potential better than a demonstration that was at last year's Google I/O. Genomic analysis attempts to structure the complete set of DNA within an organism. The idea is that once you can sequence and map the full DNA of an organism, you pretty much have the building-block source code for the organism. Then you can do a whole lot of additional research and analysis, leading to a better understanding of the organism, and, hopefully, to cures for diseases and congenital genetic defects.

The demonstration starts off by explaining that each individual link took about 10 minutes on an in-house cluster of 1,000 compute nodes. A week of time ported that system up to the Google compute engine, at which time the nearly infinitely scalable Google cloud provided the back-end computing. The result is new links blinking in every few seconds. You can quite literally see the future of medicine pop up on screen every second or so.

It's amazing. Go ahead and watch and be inspired. Combine cloud scalability with in-memory computing, and we may see medical knowledge increase at a rapidity we could only just dream about a few years ago.


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