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Life-saving research in the cloud

A look at specific use cases where cloud data is fueling medical research and leading to improved outcomes.

Life-saving research in the cloud

Using the power of the cloud to improve organisational efficiencies is one thing, but the potential benefits that can come from adopting on-demand IT in medical research are truly life-changing, creating the potential for great advancements in patient care and long-term life prospects.

What the cloud provides is a platform to store, analyse, and compare huge information data sets. This means the types of detailed investigations that might have seemed impossible a decade ago can now be performed on a grand scale. The results can be remarkable, and a number of key use cases stand out.

One example is Virginia Tech computer science professor Wu Feng and his team, who have developed tools to help other researchers and clinicians in their quests to find cures for cancer, lupus and other diseases. The team used a pre-existing next-generation sequencing toolkit, made it run faster, and pushed the system to the cloud.

The resulting software, called SeqInCloud, allows researchers to sequence and analyse a genomic data set in seconds. Just a few years ago, sequencing a human genome cost $95m. Now, the price is $1,000. And, by 2020, with the power of cloud and advanced computing, it may be a matter of pennies.

Feng and his team are part of a select group participating in a research programme called Computing in the Cloud (CiC), which is run by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The aim of the NSF initiative is to provide science communities with the opportunity to conduct research and education activities on applications running in the cloud.

Healthcare research is also moving beyond the lab. Motor vehicle manufacturer Ford is working alongside other organisations to investigate how connected devices can help people monitor and maintain health and wellness. The system would capture information from blood pressure monitors, activity monitors, and behavioural data shared by users. The results would then be processed in the cloud.

Use of the cloud is not just confined to the cutting-edge areas of healthcare, though. The American Cancer Society uses cloud-based office and collaboration technology to improve organisational efficiencies. The Society expects to save $1.5m every year in technology costs as a result.

Whether used for progressive research or increased productivity, cloud technology is vital to the medical world. On-demand IT cuts costs and increases healthcare options, meaning more money can be directed to life-saving initiatives.