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Google to preserve free DNA database

31 October 2011

By Jessica Ware

Appeared in BioNews 631
Google has joined forces with Californian start-up company, DNAnexus, to maintain a public DNA database online. The move follows an announcement by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) that it may have to withdraw funding from the current public database, the Sequence Read Archive (SRA), due to funding cuts.

The SRA contains an archive of short sections of genetic data decoded by sequencing machines. But despite being an invaluable resource for scientists to better understand how genetics affect health, some researchers have deemed the database difficult to use and badly organised.

'As a public repository of unique DNA sequencing data, the SRA has been an invaluable resource to the research community. However, the ever increasing size of datasets being submitted and the need to easily integrate them into downstream analyses has tested the limits of its utility', said Dr Richard Myers, Director and Investigator of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Alabama.

Although the NIH has recently change its approach and indicated it may continue funding the SRA database, DNAnexus chief executive Andreas Sundquist said they wanted to make sure 'we had a Plan B'.

The new site, which will be hosted on Google Cloud Storage, will mirror the SRA but hopes to offer a longer term solution to DNA storage, while also making the facility simpler to use. Unlike the SRA, which is free to use, after 30 days of usage the DNAnexus database will charge $10 per gigabyte of data downloaded. Improved browsing options and search facilities are also features of the new site.

Sundquist hopes DNAnexus' more accessible system will nevertheless 'help to ensure that scientists can easily access an archive of genomics information in a hosted environment that allows them to focus on science, not software'.

'DNA sequencing becomes 10 times cheaper every 18 months thanks to hardware improvements', he said, adding he believes that genetic analysis will become as commonplace as routine laboratory tests. Sundquist founded the company two years ago whilst working on a PhD in computer science.

Krishna Yeshwant, a partner at Google Ventures and board member of DNAnexus, further explained that 'the decreased cost of gene sequencing is making it possible for genomics to move out of the research lab and into clinical settings'.

Just last year it cost around $30,000 to sequence one person's DNA. This year that figure has decreased considerably to around $4,000. It is, however, managing the vast amounts of data that is still proving to be expensive. DNAnexus believes it will be well equipped to manage vast amounts of data.

The information that DNAnexus has deposited in Google cloud storage is, according to company officials, already one of the largest data sets in Google's history at several hundred terabytes.

DNAnexus press release | 12 October 2011
Google strikes deal to preserve DNA data online
Montreal Gazette | 27 October 2011
Techie Buzz | 28 October 2011


18 November 2014 - by Chris Baldacci 
Google has announced that it will offer storage and analysis of genome sequencing data...
16 September 2013 - by Siobhan Chan 
One comprehensive genetic database is needed for the prevention of deaths from cardiac disease to be a reality, says a cardiology expert...
22 July 2013 - by Maren Urner 
The world's largest database of cancer-related genetic variations to date has been made available by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), US...
05 March 2012 - by Ruth Saunders 
A free information resource detailing numerous disease-specific genetic tests that are now available was launched last week by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH)...
27 February 2012 - by Ruth Saunders 
In July 2011, the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS) announced its plans to improve the rules governing the protection of human subjects in research, after admitting current regulations were 'developed years ago'...

10 October 2011 - by Dr Mary Yarwood 
Plans to introduce broad powers to allow police to retain the DNA of innocent people should be abandoned, the UK Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has said....
18 October 2010 - by Ken Hanscombe 
Twelve members of the Genomes Unzipped project have made their personal genetic data publicly available online. By sharing their genetic data, the project aims to guide discussion about the risks, benefits, and limitations of genetic information, and the issue of genetic privacy...
01 June 2010 - by Dr Lux Fatimathas 
The DNA of up to four million newborn babies is being stored in UK hospitals without proper parental consent....
24 August 2009 - by Rosie Beauchamp 
This week Conservative MP Damien Green won his battle with police chiefs when they agreed to remove his record from the national DNA database. Mr Green's DNA was collected after his arrest last November over leaked Home Office documents, but no charges were brought against him....
01 October 2007 - by Ailsa Stevens 
According to one Nature columnist, 21 October 2004 marked the 'End of the beginning'; the day the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium published its 'gold standard' version of the human genome sequence (1). The Human Genome Project was set up in 1990 to read all the instructions needed to make...

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