Genomic data storage is a major challenge

Published 18.12.2015

Genomic data storage
is a major challenge

Medical research is at a turning point. New technologies are allowing us to find answers to questions that we had no chance of answering before.

Genomic research produces enormous amounts of research material and therefore processing and saving it all is creating a new challenge.

– I believe that cloud services will be a solution, said Professor and Research Director Aarno Palotie at the Turku Medical Conference symposium of the Finnish Medical Society on personalized medicine.

– In the future, we will no longer have several copies of the same data. Instead, all data will be saved in one location where it can be accessed globally through the cloud.

Another characteristic is openness of data.

– We will no longer keep our data to ourselves. These projects are far too expensive for that.

Information needs to be disseminated throughout the scientific community. Palotie admits that all this is new to researchers and practices still need to be adapted to suit various regulations, traditions and academic protectionism.

A third “megatrend” is self-monitoring and measuring. Various life trackers and mobile apps are rapidly becoming increasingly popular as well as apps for monitoring serious illnesses.

– All these trackers are gathering vast amounts of data. We will need to find a way to integrate all the data collected into a whole.

Research needs reference data

Increased amounts of data provide possibilities to understand mechanisms of diseases and what triggers them. The effect of a single genetic variant to the risk of developing a disease is usually small but the more markers there are, the greater their prognosis value.

Studying the joint effects of genetic mutations requires genomic data for whole populations. A database to serve these kinds of purposes is being developed as part of the Sequencing Initiative Suomi (SiSu) project led by Aarno Palotie.

– Similar to reference values at laboratories, genomic research needs accurate references, Palotie said in his presentation.

Development of new pharmaceuticals is becoming increasingly expensive and challenging. Genomic research looks for target molecules for developing pharmaceuticals.

– This has led to new kinds of cooperation between the scientific community and the pharmaceuticals industry. In Finland this task is supported by biobanks, national registrars and population where certain genetic variants are common.

Aarno Palotie gave a presentation on the trends of genomic medicine at the Turku Medical Conference symposium of the Finnish Medical Society on personalized medicine. Palotie is Professor and Research Director at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (IMMF) and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in the United States.

Text and photo: Virpi Ekholm

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