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Amazon Web Services Cloud helping researchers make sense of genomics data

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When it comes to genome analytics, data may run in petabytes (PB is 1,000 terabytes). Keeping this data stored in Cloud is paramount and Amazon Web Services (AWS) is helping Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) achieve that. “We do have a lot of data when we’re studying cancer or heart disease. That’s human data and for that, we have very strong security protocols in place.

“That’s extremely important and AWS is helping us with that,” Swaine Chen, Professor and Senior Research Scientist at GIS, told IANS in an interview.

The Cloud-based intelligent solutions from AWS, which is retail giant Amazon’s Cloud computing arm, is helping GIS which is Singapore’s leading public sector agency store the data, compute, analyse and make sense of it. “It is clearly cheaper to go with AWS than to run our own infrastructure. We use AWS solutions for storage. We use it for analytics. We use it for storage and compute and also for collaboration and sharing data with partners,” Chen informed.

In 2015, Singapore witnessed an outbreak of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) that came from raw fish. The researchers at GIS sequenced genomic DNA to tell the difference between strains of GBS and managed to control the outbreak. “We did genomics. The strain of Group B Streptococcus was found both in human patients and, at the same time, we found it in fish that was sold at the food stalls,” Chen said.

The GIS has over 300 scientists, trainees and staff and Cloud computing is enabling the institution to decode the humongous data faster. Chen is open to collaborating with the Indian institutions. “We are very open to supporting countries in the region as well as globally. India is witnessing new diseases and we can help with genomics,” he said.

On Nipah virus that took nearly 17 lives in Kerala before it was contained, Dr Chen said this is a scary situation.

“If you have a disease that you have never seen, that’s very scary. How are you going to figure that out? How will you figure out that this is a totally new virus or totally new bacteria? In the past, we would have to grow that bacteria, we would have to grow that virus. Now we can sequence the whole thing,” Chen said. “We’re always seeking new partners. If we can help each other, then that just makes sense,” he added.


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