Genetics ‘cloud’ to create new opportunities for researchers and clinicians
Gene sequencing and analysis could be dramatically speeded up,
leading to patients receiving a quicker and more accurate
diagnosis, thanks to research led by Eagle Genomics Ltd and
involving NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre
Using cloud computing technology, the researchers have found
they can slash the amount of time it takes to store the huge
amounts of information produced when individual genes are sequenced
Whereas at the moment this process can take up to three months,
the scientists believe their new technique could mean results are
produced in about a week.
Eagle Genomics,a leading
open-source bioinformatics service provider, is carrying out the
research in collaboration with The University of
Manchester, and Cytocell
Ltd., with assistance from NGRL, based at the Central
Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and the NIHR
Manchester Biomedical Research Centre. The £500,000
project is part-funded by the UK's national innovation agency, the
Technology Strategy Board.
Access to the information analysed and stored by the cloud will
enable medical researchers who are developing and testing new
treatments to compare large amounts of information and find common
The technology will also help clinicians to look at an
individual patient's genetic make-up to aid diagnosis and ongoing
Rather than simply testing a patient for one suspected
condition, using the cloud technology could allow clinicians to
test for a much wider range of complaints.
Currently, the NHS IT systems do not have the resources to cope
with the huge demands required. The cloud system can be accessed
from a separate site, away from hospitals, freeing up space.
The project will build upon the success of the TavernaWorkflow
Management System software developed by Professor Carole Goble's
myGrid team at The University of Manchester. Eagle Genomics will
work with the University to adapt Tavernato allow non-IT experts to
easily add and extract information and share it with their
"Taverna is ideal for this project because it allows you to
systematically automate the analysis processes of expert
geneticists and make them easily available for other to use at the
press of a button" said Professor Andy Brass of The University of
Example applications identified and described by NGRL and
Cytocell will provide a significant and valuable resource to help
develop and demonstrate the efficacy of the resulting system.
"Genetic sequencing is an increasingly important diagnostic tool
as well as being fundamental to many areas of research," said
Professor Graeme Black, Director of the NIHR Manchester Biomedical
Research Centre and a consultant at Manchester Royal Eye
Hospital. "By storing genetic data in the 'cloud'
indefinitely, we can use it for research studies and also to help
clinicians to decide if medical conditions, that patients develop
at any stage, may be linked to their genes."
Abel Ureta-Vidal, CEO of Eagle Genomics Ltd., added: "Thanks to
funding from the Technology Strategy Board, this project is looking
at ways in which genetic data can be securely and confidentially
stored, accessed and analysedonly by approved users."
The project, which started in July 2011, is on target for
completion of a fully functional system with an initial selection
of analyses available by December 2012.