Autism Speaks Partners with Google to Make World’s Largest Autism Database

CC BY-NC-ND by iFireDesign

CC BY-NC-ND by iFireDesign

New York – Autism Speaks has announced a collaboration with Google to develop the world’s largest database of genomic sequence information on individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their family members.

The collaboration represents a significant milestone in advancing genomic research of the disorder, and could lead to breakthroughs into the causes, subtypes and better diagnosis and treatment for ASD. The Autism Speaks Ten Thousand Genomes Program (AUT10K) is valued at $50 million dollars.

Autism Speaks will store data from AUT10K on the Google Cloud Platform that will be an open resource to support autism research. Autism Speaks has accumulated the largest private collection of DNA samples, known as the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) from 12,000 autism cases with diagnoses and detailed phenotyping.

In an article by Lecia Bushak on the Medical Daily website Rob Ring, chief science officer at Autism Speaks spoke of how this is a really exciting time for the organization adding:

“The goal is to build an open-access database for the entire research community.”

Ring also claims that Google Cloud is “as secure as it gets” in terms of storing personal data.

“The important thing is that the data has been de-identified,”

This means that names and all other personal information will be removed.

googleHe goes on to further add in the article that Autism Speaks will need Google’s help to manage the database and make it simple and easy for researchers to use.

AGRE has been a strategic resource for the autism research community for over 15 years and is valued at $25 million dollars. The amount of data collected by AUT10K creates unique challenges for storing, analyzing, and providing remote access to the research. Google Cloud Platform provides the engineering innovation needed to address those challenges. Connecting biological discoveries with the very best in large-scale cloud storage and computation will advance the field of genomics research.

Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks said in a press release:

“This announcement represents an unprecedented intersection of business, science and philanthropy that will drastically accelerate the pace of autism research,”

Further adding:

“The insight and expertise the Google team brings to the table is unmatched. Utilizing Google Cloud Platform further advances Autism Speaks’ commitment to advancing cutting-edge science.”

Autism Speaks launched AUT10K in collaboration with the Toronto based Hospital for Sick Children’s (SickKids) Centre for Applied Genomics. Dr. Steve Scherer, who directs the Center, and is a world pioneer in the study of genes, will be the director of AUT10K and said:

“The collaboration between a pioneering tech company and the foremost autism science organization has the potential to transform the autism research landscape in exceptional ways. No other organization outside of major health institutions and academia has accomplished this much this quickly.”

Scherer oversees $10 million dollars in funding for genomic research, including contributions from Steven Wise, Chairman of the KRG Children Charitable Foundation as well as $7.5 million dollars from the Canadian federal government and the province of Ontario. In addition, in 2014, leadership contributions to AUT10K have totaled $5 million, including support from the Gordon & Llura Gund Foundation, Mel Karmazin Foundation and Allerton Foundation. With the AGRE collection valued at $25 million dollars, this represents most of the funding needed to complete the full sequence of 10,000 genomes.

Liz Feld who is president of Autism Speaks believes that this is the most promising autism research ever done and for those living with ASD will make a significant difference in the development of effective forms of diagnosis and treatment.

In an article by Jessica Guynn on the USA Today website they state that this isn’t the first time that Google has explored opportunities in health care and science.

They backed Calico, which is analyzing genomes to better understand and fight aging as well as investing in a genetic testing company 23andMe.

David Glazer, engineering director for Google Genomics said in the press release:

“We are excited to be working with the Autism Speaks team on storage, processing, exploration, and sharing of the AUT10K data, and are even more excited about the opportunity for Google Cloud Platform to help unlock causes and treatments of autism.”