NCI Awards Contracts for Cancer Genomics Cloud Pilots

November 3, 2014

By Bio-IT World Staff

November 3, 2014 | The National Cancer Institute has chosen two academic institutes and one private company to develop separate compute infrastructures for the analysis of cloud-hosted genomics data generated by large, public projects. The contracts awarded by NCI will mandate that, for this pilot project, each recipient be able to host multiple petabytes of data from The Cancer Genome Atlas in their system, that all the data be publicly accessible through the cloud, and that a computing environment be co-located with the data to speed up informatics tools run in the system. Over the course of the contracts, NCI will evaluate the cloud infrastructures for their power and ease of use, with the long-term goal of creating sustainable systems that could be expanded to other public databases.

The three recipients are the Broad Institute, in partnership with UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, which will receive $7 million; the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, in partnership with Google, which will receive $6.5 million; and Seven Bridges Genomics, a company in Cambridge with a commercial bioinformatics platform, which will receive $6 million. (Bio-IT World has previously covered Seven Bridges' cancer genomics workflow, which was built using The Cancer Genome Atlas as a test bed.)

Numerous research groups around the world already use The Cancer Genome Atlas, hosted publicly by NCI, as a source of data for discovering and validating genetic subtypes of cancer or promising drug targets. However, the data is not hosted in an environment that makes it readily accessible for analysis, slowing the pace of discovery and creating barriers to entry for groups with less funding or bioinformatics experience. NCI identified this as a key bottleneck for the type of research it funds last spring, and conceived the Cancer Genomics Cloud Pilots as a major effort that could form a template for the long-term hosting of public multi-omics data.