Canada to set up cancer cloud computing facility

Recognition of the insights hidden in genetic data and the difficulty in extracting them has prompted governments around the world to stump up cash for informatics projects. Canada is set to continue upping its investments in the field, with a cancer cloud computing facility the latest project to secure financial backing.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council initiated the project and has brought Genome Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research on board, too. Together the groups are building the Cancer Genome Collaboratory, a cloud-computing facility designed to process genetic profiles from the International Cancer Genome Consortium. The 10-year target is to characterize tumors from 500 patients in each of the major cancer types.

By investing C$7.3 million ($6.7 million) in data-handling capabilities, the Canadian collaborators hope to ensure that researchers can access and analyze the material. "There has been no viable long-term plan for storing the raw sequencing data in a form that can be easily accessed by the research community. The Cancer Genome Collaboratory will open this incredibly important data set to researchers from laboratories large and small," the University of Toronto's Lincoln Stein said in a statement.

The University of Chicago is committing a further C$500,000 to the project and providing computing resources. Beta testing is due to start next year, with the broader research community set to be given access in 2016. Researchers will then be able to upload their analytics software to the cloud, play with the data and download the results. With up to 15 petabytes of data available, the funders felt the cloud-based model offered the most efficient way for researchers to access the information.

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