Autism Speaks to make Google-underpinned genomics database freely available

Google's headquarters--courtesy of Google
Google's headquarters--Courtesy of Google

Autism Speaks has released details of the genome sequencing database it is building on Google's ($GOOG) cloud platform. The plan is to sequence the whole genomes of 10,000 people in families affected by autism and make the resulting database freely available to researchers.

Nonprofit Autism Speaks first unveiled its alliance with Google in the summer but has shifted its plans somewhat in the intervening months. The project has been rebranded from The Autism Speaks Ten Thousand Genomes Program (AUT10K) to MSSNG, a play on "missing" intended to reflect the gaps in understanding about the spectrum disorder. And Autism Speaks has decided to make the database freely available, giving researchers access to a trove of genome data.

"I don't think there is a database as complete and big as this one anywhere in life sciences. [The best-case scenario] is that we will provide the data on which discoveries around autism are made for years to come," Rob Ring, the chief science officer at Autism Speaks, told The Washington Post. Autism Speaks has sequenced 1,000 genomes to date and has a further 2,000 in the pipeline. The end goal is still to sequence 10,000 whole genomes.

The database is an early showcase for Google Genomics, the search giant's pitch for a slice of the burgeoning cloud genome storage and analysis market. David Glazer, the former director of engineering for Google Plus, is heading up the genomics initiative. Glazer told Wired the plan is to make it easy for researchers to search for particular sequences or common variations, a task he compared to the keyword-based discovery model of the company's core business. 

- read the release
- here's the Post's article
- check out Wired's take
- and Business Insider's coverage