New Canadian Genomics Cloud Enables Widespread Medtech Collaboration

Technology helps people communicate. Normally that may mean social media, but for a group of industry and academic collaborators, new advances in technology allow them to share much more than dinner plans.

The Canadian Genomics Cloud has officially launched, allowing every scientist in Canada to have unfettered access to award-winning technology, precision medicine and other applications involved in genome research. The cloud program itself is deployed on Google’s new cloud computing facility in Montreal which opened in early February and is publicly accessible right here.

The Genomics Cloud is an integrated software platform that can manage, analyze and share genome sequence and clinical data. It delivers the key functionalities for genome science on the cloud, allowing researchers and industry leaders to shed the substantial costs and burdens typically associated with maintaining hardware infrastructure on-premises within a university or lab.

“Exponential growth in genome sequencing is generating unprecedented volumes of data that demand cloud computing to manage and mine,” said Dr. Marc Fiume, CEO of the Toronto-based DNAstack. Fiume’s team led the development of the Genomics Cloud alignment with global standards it helped write as part of a large worldwide consortium called the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH).

“With this launch we are ushering into Canada the latest technologies and standards to catalyze research and service faster than ever before,” added Fiume.

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The Canadian Genomics Cloud provides on-demand access to a number of well-known (at least within the genomics world) data analysis workflows, including the Broad Institute’s GATK4 which provides open source software covering variant classes for germline and cancer genome analysis; and Sentieon’s DNAseq, a bioinformatics analysis suite.

Another workflow the platform provides access to is Verily’s Deep Variant, a caller that uses deep neural networks to call genetic variants in germline genomes. Verily is owned by Google and is known for breeding sterile mosquitoes to release into the wild in an effort to reduce the overall mosquito population.

The cloud platform was developed to support CGEn, a national network of genome sequencing centres in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

“We are performing whole genome sequencing on thousands of research samples across Canada and our needs to manage this big data for the community grow every day,” said Dr. Stephen Scherer, a senior scientist at SickKids and medical professor at the University of Toronto.

More local examples of how the Canadian Genomics CLoud will be used can be found at Scherer’s work, the SickKids hospital. The platform will support SickKids Cancer Sequencing, a pediatric cancer genome sequencing program.

This kind of project lays the foundation for an ecosystem ripe with technical integrations that will enable data to flow freely and securely between all kinds of systems, form schools to hospitals to research labs. This will break traditional research silos and maximize the work being done with health data.