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Google is helping build a giant database for understanding autism

Google is helping build a giant database for understanding autism


Database of sequenced genomes planned to be the largest ever

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Autism Speaks is teaming up with Google to create what it says will become the largest database of sequenced genomes from people with autism and members of their family. Autism Speaks, the research and advocacy group, plans for the database to include genomes from 10,000 people, 1,000 of which it's already completed sequencing of. The group's hope is that the database, which it says will be an "open resource," will facilitate research into the causes of autism spectrum disorder, as well as subtypes of it, treatments, and diagnosis.

"Modern biology has become a data-limited science. Modern computing can remove those limits."

"The [Autism Speaks Ten Thousand Genomes Program] holds the potential to radically transform our understanding of autism and redefine the future of medical care for those affected by the disorder," Rob Ring, Autism Speaks' chief science officer, says in a statement. "Working with Google is a game-changer in this story."

Autism Speaks is turning to Google for help storing and managing the database, given its large size. Google has a genomics platform for this very purpose, and it's meant to let researchers focus on their work and not have to deal with computer and storage issues. Similar databases of genomes have existed for a while now, but this new one should achieve a far larger scale with regard to information on autism. "Modern biology has become a data-limited science," David Glazer, Google Genomics' engineering director, says in a statement. "Modern computing can remove those limits."

There's no date on when the database might be complete, but Autism Speaks say that it already has its next nearly 2,000 samples, which will bring the database up to 3,000 genomes once they're ready. Though Autism Speaks has garnered controversy over its approach to autism, if its new database is in fact open to any interested researcher, that should allow for a diverse approach to further research into this huge set of data.