Stanford Medicine has picked Google Genomics to power its healthcare data science drive. The deal sees Stanford make the Alphabet ($GOOG) subsidiary’s cloud platform the backbone of its Clinical Genomics Service, an offering the heavyweight medical school sees propelling its research and patient care units forward.
When Stanford’s Clinical Genomics Service goes live later this year, it will mark a step forward in the medical school’s attempts to incorporate genetic testing into routine healthcare. Stanford will store data generated in these tests on Google’s platform, which, as with all cloud-based systems, offers an easily scalable, remotely accessible way of housing information. This is important for Stanford. The medical school aspires to sequence thousands of genomes.
“We want to be seen as leaders in determining how genomic data, when combined with other data, is able to predict when we're more prone to developing the disease,” Lloyd Minor, dean of Stanford Medicine, told Fast Company.
Landing Stanford, a high-profile organization with potentially substantial data storage and analysis needs, represents a boost for Google Genomics. The search giant set up the offering in 2014. Users of the service can store a 30x human whole genome sequence in the cloud for $25 a year. Google then charges extra to perform computations on the data.
The service pits Google against some familiar competitors, notably Amazon ($AMZN) and Microsoft ($MSFT). Google beat its rivals to the Stanford deal, in part because it is a long-standing collaborator of the medical school. To consistently land contracts with organizations it lacks existing relationships with, Google will have find ways to differentiate its service. This is tricky.
Pricing is already competitive, leaving the cloud providers with limited opportunities to compete on cost. Similarly, with Amazon typically topping lists of the most reliable cloud services--and leaving its competitors with little scope to best its performance--Google and Microsoft are unlikely to capture market share on the basis of uptime.
The Stanford deal shows one way Google is looking to gain an edge: machine learning. Stanford plans to work with Google to assess ways in which the technology can advance its research and patient care agendas.