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Genomics England taps up AWS and Lifebit to create cloud-based Covid-19 research environment

Genomics England is looking to open up collaboration on Covid-19 genome datasets with researchers across the globe with new cloud-based research environment, which will be based on AWS and Lifebit’s technologies

Genomics England has joined forces with public cloud giant Amazon Web Services (AWS) and biomedical data processing company Lifebit to create a Covid-19-related genomic research platform.

The project’s aim is to “transform” how genomic data is used and made available to the medical research community around the world, and will initially focus on data analytics tasks pertaining to the global fight against the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Genomics England was set up by the Department of Health and Social Care as a standalone entity to oversee the 100,000 Genomes Project, with its aim to sequence 100,000 genomes from NHS patients suffering with rare diseases and cancer.

The data gleaned from that project will be used in the Covid-19 research, while the platform will also – in time – be used to generate insights from that data to help Genomics England in its quest to find out more about rare diseases and cancers.

As an aside to this, Genomics England will also be working in partnership with the Genetics of Mortality in Critical Care group, which is a global community of doctors and scientists focused on the treatment of patients with critical illnesses.

This piece of work will see the pair work with the NHS to deliver whole genome sequencing of up to 20,000 Covid-19 intensive care patients, and up to 15,000 people with mild symptoms of the disease.

In a statement, Genomics England said the environment’s creation “reflects a new chapter” in the role that genomic research can play in collaborative drug discovery and the development of new treatments.

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In terms of the technology stack, AWS will be providing the project with access to cloud-based compute and storage resources. Lifebit’s technology, meanwhile, will enable researchers to run queries and analyse the data contained within the environment, while also aiding collaboration between research teams across these large genomic datasets.

Chris Wigley, CEO at Genomics England, said it is not just patients across the UK that are set to benefit from this work.

“This is all about impact for patients in the UK and beyond, who will benefit from Genomic England’s support for the response to this terrible pandemic. By improving understanding of why some patients have such severe responses to the virus while others have a mild response, Genomics England is helping to support vaccine and drug development. This will ultimately ensure that the treatment of the UK’s Covid patients is personalised, safer and more effective,” said Wigley.

John Davies, head of UK and Ireland healthcare for AWS’s Public Sector division, added: “Using AWS, Genomics England will be able to provide researchers with access to secure, scalable cloud computing resources that will enable them to perform studies to better understand the virus and deliver better outcomes and treatments for NHS patients.”

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