Tuesday, April 17, 2012 & genomics Isn't this a biotech blog?

In the last month I've commented on mainstream players like GE and Google getting involved in making our molecular future a reality. (Hint: it's a good thing.) Continuing this theme is the news that Amazon is hosting the 200TB of data for the (misnamed) 1000 Genome Project (really 2,500 genomes.)

(Best news coverage here.)

One of Amazon's side businesses (besides selling books, music, etc.) is selling computing power on demand. By publicly hosting the datasets from thousands of genomes, Amazon is making available immensely powerful computing resources to anyone with a laptop and a credit card who wants to do some genomic data mining.

(AMZN isn't being entirely altruistic (@ <$100/TB storage costs, Amazon is only committing $20k in assets) - their hope is that researchers will use their on demand computing capacity, but the bill for any particular research project is likely to be <$1000 (depending on computing intensity. The press release makes mention of a big pharma project using supercomputer-like power for ~$1,300/hr.)

What's exciting to me - besides the message that another mainstream business like AMZN, GE, or GOOG recognizes the molecular future - is that Amazon is substantially reducing the capital required to conduct bioinformatics R&D. Instead of building expensive computing clusters and hiring an IT staff just to keep the system "up," you can now conduct informatics research with virtually zero start-up costs. It may cost you more to incorporate your start-up than to do your first project.

Amazon will impact more than genomic analysis - their on-demand computing will be very helpful for many other computational-intensive areas of life sciences, like rational drug design.

You can learn more about Amazon's efforts in life sciences here.

(btw: I hope no US Federal government employees hurt themselves falling all over Amazon's announcement trying to gain credit. The sub-headline to the press release states "Project is exemplar of new White House Big Data Initiative," and the Scientific American article pointedly states "The deal is a part of a new initiative from the Obama administration that will invest $200 million…." (in genomic R&D), The NIH press release credits "at least" six different federal agencies for working together to make this happen. Does it really take 6 agencies and the executive branch to convince Amazon to invest ~$20,000 to make a whole lot more money? The cost of press coverage (including press contacts at BOTH NHGRI and NCBI) on the part of AMZN & the NIH represented almost as much of an investment as the storage capacity.)

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