Autism Speaks and Google are collaborating to transform genomic research on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism Speaks will use the Google Cloud Platform to address the challenges of managing, analyzing and disseminating the world’s largest library of genomic information on individuals with autism and their family members. This library is being established by the Autism Speaks Ten Thousand Genomes Program (AUT10K).
The collaboration promises to advance breakthroughs in the understanding, diagnosis, subtyping and personalized treatment of autism, said Rob Ring, Autism Speaks’ chief science officer.
"The AUT10K program holds the potential to radically transform our understanding of autism and redefine the future of medical care for those affected by the disorder,” he said.
The AUT10K program aims to sequence the whole genomes of 10,000 individuals in families affected by autism around the world.
Thanks to thousands of participating families, Autism Speaks already manages the world’s largest private collection of autism-related DNA samples. Its Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) has been a strategic resource for autism research for more than 15 years. Its gene data is deeply cross-referenced with anonymous behavioral and medical information.
However, the vastly larger amount of data collected by AUT10K creates unique challenges for storage, analysis and remote access. Previously, the transport of genomic information involved physically shipping hard drives. Downloading even one individual’s whole genome in a conventional manner could take hours, the equivalent of downloading a hundred feature films.
The cutting-edge capabilities of the Google Cloud can overcome these limits, said Ring. “Connecting biological discoveries with the best in large-scale cloud storage and computation will advance not only autism research but the entire field of genomic medicine.”
“Modern biology has become a data-limited science,” said David Glazer, engineering director for Google Genomics. “Modern computing can remove those limits. We are excited to be working with the Autism Speaks team on storage, processing, exploration and sharing of the AUT10K data. We’re even more excited about the opportunity for Google Cloud Platform to help unlock causes and treatments of autism.”
The AUT10K database will be an open resource to support autism research around the world.