Researchers turn to cloud-based analysis to accommodate influx of genetic data

 Some genetic sequencing providers are opting to upload client genome information to cloud-based analysis networks

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Questions about privacy arise again on the scene of genetic sequencing as medical researchers turn to cloud-based bioinformatics software to analyze processed sequences.

With genetic sequencing rapidly becoming a more and more affordable service for public consumption, genetic sequencing providers are growing more concerned with how to crunch the sequencing data rather than with the sequencing technology itself. As the field of personalized medicine continues to expand and individuals opt to have their genomes sequenced for as little as $1,500, the costly part for sequencing providers will be to maintain enough servers and personnel to analyze and identify information in the completed sequences.

Some genetic sequencing providers have already opted to outsource those analytic processes to cloud-computing software platforms, which allows for the genetic information to be analyzed without the financial investment in the physical infrastructure needed to house on-site analytical processes. Clients’ genetic information is uploaded into the cloud and can be analyzed for as little as $100 cost.

Many individuals may find it daunting to consider that their personal genetic information is being released to a cloud-based computing network. While cloud-based genetic analysis is no more likely to jeopardize personal privacy than on-site computing, it is a sign of how much more readily genomic information is being collected and analyzed. Innovative solutions such as cloud-based computing will continue to expand to accommodate increasing bandwidth needs.

The emergence of cloud-based genetic sequencing analysis demonstrates that the field of genomics may be advancing faster than regulatory agencies can keep up. The problem of privacy when it comes to genetic information is not specific to cloud-based computing - there currently are no federal regulations in place to protect individual privacy when it comes to genetic information, and state regulations are varied and riddled with inconsistencies. Just this past October, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues made twelve concrete recommendations about the regulation of genetic information, but none of those regulations have been put in place yet.

To read more about cloud-based genetic sequencing, check out this March 19 article published by “Gene-analysis firms reach for the cloud”.

Learn more about genetics and privacy by reading these recent blog stories:

DNA Anonymity Part I: Current state and concern

DNA Anonymity Part II: What privacy can we expect in the future?

Ethical recommendations: Whole genome sequencing and privacy