Google To Store DNA Data Online, Make It Free For Researchers

The price to pay for a service getting cheaper is the increased demand, and consequently the larger amounts of data generated due to that. When the National Institute of Health (NIH) announced that it might have to consider dropping funding to Sequence Read Archive (SRA), Google stepped in aiming to protect the huge bank of genetic data amassed from several individuals over the years. Google began talks with DNAnexus, a Mountain View, California firm, aiming to keep funding the genetic database, put it online and then make it free for researchers from across the globe. The problem? The data is huge!

A More Virulent Moore’s Law

Recently NIH backtracked and said that they’ll support SRA in the near future. DNAnexus went ahead and said that they wanted a Plan B, keeping a mirrorof the information available at SRA. DNAnexus CEO Andreas Sundquist said that they intend to build up a better public repository, one that is easy to search and access information from.

If you thought the solid state industry has grown phenomenally, hear Andreas Sandquist on the growth of the genetic industry:

DNA sequencing becomes 10 times cheaper every 18 months, thanks to hardware improvements. It’s sort of like Moore’s law on steroids!

Just to give you as estimated figure, the cost of gene sequencing for an entire person was around $30,000 in the US a year ago. Now, it is down to $4000! Considering that each genome is 3 billion letters (that’s 3,000,000,000 letters) long, it takes 3 terabits of data for every person’s genome. The space crunch is inevitable. Now, with the gene sequencing techniques getting cheaper, we expect sequencing to enter mainstream medical lab testing at reasonable rates. This is going to create an even bigger space crunch. There is another worry about the information being made accessible to people who need it. SRA is a great database, but very disorganized. This is where Google and its data-crunching capabilities come into play something that has made Google a household name.

Everyone’s Online!

In the near future, predicts Sandquist, everyone’s genetic information will be available online. What’s the big deal about that, you ask? With information about mutations present online, it will be easier to figure out how pathogens evolve and work out a way to find a cure for many diseases. It will significantly reduce the time required to test new drugs.

This isn’t Google’s first foray into genomics. Sergey Brin and his wife has constantly funded 23andme, a Mountain View organization, which was co-founded by Brin’s wife and helps people understand the genetic cause of their diseases.

Guess in the future you can even Google up someone’s genetic make-up. Isn’t that cool?

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Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.