NYT: Data bottleneck stymies progress in genomics

Biotech computing scribes write about the logjam of genomics data from high-speed sequencing machines on a regular basis, but the problem somehow seems more acute when The New York Times' Andrew Pollack details the issue in one of the world's most important newspapers, as he did Nov. 30.

It might sting even those familiar with the problem to read in the story that BGI, the world's largest sequencing outfit, routinely stores genome data on computer disks and sends them to customers via FedEx because transferring the deluge of data over the Internet would take weeks. C. Titus Brown, a bioinformatics specialist at Michigan State, told Pollack that it's "essentially impossible at the moment" to do a deep analysis on the huge amount of sequencing data from the Human Microbiome Project.

Experts project the data bottleneck to get worse with exponential growth in the number of sequenced genomes every year, and, as Pollock notes, some bioinformatics companies such as Google Ventures-backed DNAnexus, DNAstar and others have a viable market opportunity to seize. While covering promising genomic data analysis companies, the article doesn't say much in the way of solutions to the need to use snail mail to transport data on sequenced genomes.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a biotech tycoon who made billions on the sale of drug developers, is backing the National LambdaRail (NLR), the 12,000-mile fiber-optic network that enables high-speed data transfers of 100 gigabits per second, aiming to tap that infrastructure to support sharing of genomics data among researchers to speed the discovery of new treatments. Soon-Shiong's recently formed nonprofit is also tackling the analysis piece with a supercomputer and data centers that are expected to eventually be linked to the NLR to be shared among scientists and clinicians.

While billionaires throw money and resources at the problem, there seems to be a lot of fertile ground to invent IT solutions to fix the mess. Us biotech-computing scribes at FierceBiotechIT will be keeping track of them.

- get more in The New York Times article

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