DNA Sent to the Cloud

Cloud computing could change the game for the business of DNA-sequencing.

Jul 27, 2011
Jessica P. Johnson

DNA sequencersWIKIMEDIA COMMONS, UW

China-based DNA-sequencing giant BGI announced this month that it will take its business to the cloud, harnessing the power of a network of computers to analyze massive quantities of sequence data from clients around the world, reports Nature.

The company is the largest of its kind and boasts an output of some 45 trillion base pair readings, or the DNA equivalent of nearly 15,000 human genomes, per year. This is a long way from the first sequenced human genome, which took 14 years and the efforts of researchers and institutions around the globe to complete.

By moving its sequence data to the cloud, BGI hopes to corner the market as a one-stop-shop not only for DNA sequencing but also analysis—called bioinformatics. Most other companies currently offer just one service or the other.

Not only are sequencers too expensive for most labs, the cost of hard disk storage space remains so high that it is often cheaper to store the data elsewhere. Cloud computing provides vast storage space and allows high-speed analysis that is impossible or cost-prohibitive to individual labs. “The cloud is going to be central in the entire world of DNA sequencing,” Cliff Reid, chief executive of competitor Complete Genomics, told Nature.