MIT, Harvard researchers tapping into Google Cloud Platform to crunch raw genomic data

The latest development from the Internet giant stems from one of its more rapidly growing departments more synonymous with business and enterprise than health and wellness.

From smart contact lenses designed for diabetes patients to an entirely new company established to beat the aging process, Google is continuously plugging away at new lifelines in healthcare.

The latest development from the Internet giant stems from one of its more rapidly growing departments more synonymous with business and enterprise than health and wellness.

Google Genomics and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard are teaming up to combine the power, security, and scale of Google Cloud Platform with Broad Institute's expertise in scientific analysis.

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That would be Google Cloud Platform, touting its big data crunching abilities to produce new scientific discoveries.

Cloud Platform is serving as the backbone for life sciences-focused Google Genomics in its new collaboration with MIT and Harvard researchers at the Broad Institute.

Launched in 2004, the medical organization set out to research the molecular basis of major human diseases and develop new approaches to diagnostics and therapeutics -- all the while with the intention of making the findings, data and methods open to the entire scientific community.

Since then, Broad Institute has collected and either sequenced or genotyped more than 1.4 million biological samples.

"Large-scale genomic information is accelerating scientific progress in cancer, diabetes, psychiatric disorders, and many other diseases," wrote Eric Lander, president and director of Broad Institute in prepared remarks. "Storing, analyzing, and managing these data is becoming a critical challenge for biomedical researchers."

Thus, Broad Institute has now teamed up with Google Genomics to develop even more tools and services aimed toward scientists based anywhere from remote research labs around the world to large commercial and academic institutions.

So far, the partnership has turned out and made available an alpha version of the Broad Institute Genome Analysis Toolkit (GATK) via Google Cloud Platform.

Google Genomics product manager Jonathan Bingham described GATK in a blog post on Wednesday as "the standard for converting raw genomic data into reliable information about genetic variants."

Google is providing the technical infrastructure while the Broad Institute is bringing its analysis methods.

"By running GATK as a service through Google Genomics, scientists can be more confident that they're processing their data according to the best practices, without worrying about managing IT infrastructure," Bingham asserted.

Broad Institute added it will continue to support and upgrade GATK for all users (both on premise and cloud-based) as well as offer software directly.

Academic and non-profit users have free access to GATK, while corporate users can license GATK through the Broad Institute directly.

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