BGI, China's Global Genomics Powerhouse, Enters Cloud Analysis Market

April 21, 2015


By Bio-IT World Staff

April 21, 2015 | BGI has announced a cloud-based genome analysis service, BGI Online, which will provide an online computational environment to process genetic data. Commercial services using the cloud for bioinformatics were until recently a novelty, but providers DNAnexus and Seven Bridges Genomics, which launched their services in 2010 and 2012 respectively, have both seen exponential growth over the past two years, proving the potential for this business and setting new records for the both the scale and speed of genomic analysis. As the size of genomic data outpaces the capacities of all but the largest private clusters, these companies see an expanding market; BGI Online is advertising its services for not only large genomics centers, but also genetic testing companies and the pharmaceutical industry.

Formerly known as the Beijing Genomics Institute, BGI, now headquartered in Shenzhen, increasingly has a global presence in all aspects of genome science. It already runs massive on-demand sequencing services in both its native China and, through subsidiary Complete Genomics, the U.S. Those services could provide an easy point of integration with the new BGI Online, for customers who want to outsource their sequencing but also finely control the analysis pipelines involved. More recently, BGI has also teased the upcoming launch of its own brand of commercial gene sequencing instruments, based on Complete Genomics technology.

Like its competitors, BGI Online will offer both predefined pipelines for the most common analysis tasks, and customer-designed pipelines using open source or proprietary tools. At launch, the highlight of BGI Online’s service is ELSA, a tool for rapidly extracting genetic variants from raw human genome or exome sequences. ELSA was developed by L3 BioInformatics, a spinoff from collaborations between BGI and the University of Hong Kong; BGI claims the tool can process an entire human genome sequenced at 50x coverage in four hours. Other advertised pipelines include some developed by BGI during its own sequencing work, and some that mimic the most popular services of Seven Bridges.