Wu Feng, an award-winning Virginia Tech computer science professor, imagines a future where your genetic profile resides in cloud-computing. Your genetic profile could provide a hint for an early detection of a possible life-threatening disease, like lung cancer, and provide you with an individually targeted treatment that could save your life. This level of personalized medical treatment is purely hypothetical, but Feng believes the technology could become a reality in less than a decade.
Cloud computing plays a vital role in giving everyone access to their genetic profiles. By relying on tools and resources to analyze genomes in the cloud, researchers could work from a variety of different devices; which will allow researchers to collaborate with each other more conveniently, as well as save time and money. Human genome sequencing used to cost upwards of $95 million, today it is a mere $1,000. In a few years, it could next to nothing to sequence the human genome.
Feng and Virginia Tech team have created a variety of tools to help other researchers in their clinical trials to try to find cures for diseases like cancer and other diseases. Feng describes how the Microsoft Cloud could help facilitate better medical research:
We’re helping them do the things they need to do to make the discoveries, Many researchers, colleges and universities don’t have access to on-premises supercomputing resources to analyze large amounts of sequencing data. We can create the software they need, which they can then run on the Microsoft Cloud.
Feng and his team at Virginia Tech worked on a pre-existing human genome sequencing toolkit (Genome Analysis Toolkit; GATK) and updated it with the newer cloud-computing power and infrastructure of Microsoft’s Hadoop-based Azure HDInsight Service. Feng and his team’s efforts created SeqInCloud (Sequencing in the Cloud), which help biologists and oncologists better and more quickly identify where cell mutations might happen and what could lead to cancer.
Feng and his team are one of only 13 in the US that were picked for a program called Computing in the Cloud. Computing in the Cloud is run by the National Science Foundation in partnership with Microsoft. Computing in the Cloud is designed to fuel cloud computing in its use for research discovery, data analysis, and multifaceted collaboration to lead to new and successful medical treatments.
For more information, check out the video above or follow the link below for more information on Wu Feng’s research.