RARE Daily

Genomics England Launches Next-Generation Research Platform

July 6, 2020

Rare Daily Staff

Genomics England has launched a next-generation genomic research platform that it says will transform how genomic data is made usable for global biopharma and academic researchers.

Genomics England has partnered with the British company Lifebit and is using global cloud provider Amazon Web Services (AWS) to power the platform. The immediate focus for the research environment will be on COVID-19 data and analytics, but the platform will ultimately harness the Genomics England 100,000 Genomes Project data in the fight against cancer and rare diseases.

Genomics England said the launch of this new research environment reflects a new chapter in the role that genomic research can play in collaborative drug discovery and treatment development for the benefit of the health industry.

By using AWS’s scalable and secure cloud computing and storage infrastructure in the United Kingdom, and enabling access, analysis, and collaboration through Lifebit’s technology platform, Genomics England will allow approved researchers around the world to use the data. The data stored on the platform will never leave Genomics England’s secure environment but will allow flexible research access to it.

Much like the use of apps on a smartphone, researchers will be able to introduce cutting edge analytical tools of their choice, link those tools securely with their in-house data, and conduct research in private workspaces that are audited, protected and controlled by Genomics England’s strict information governance policies.

In addition, Genomics England, in partnership with the GenOMICC consortium, is working with the U.K.’s National Health Service to deliver whole genome sequencing of up to 20,000 COVID-19 intensive care patients, and up to 15,000 people with mild symptoms. This data will be stored in the AWS UK Region under the control of Genomics England.

Lifebit’s leading platform will allow researchers to query, analyze, and collaborate over these very large sets of genomic and medical data in seconds. Its enhanced functionality and automated tools will speed up researchers’ understanding of the underlying genetic factors that may explain what makes some patients more susceptible to the virus, or more severely ill when infected. Researchers’ findings will help fast-track the development of vaccines and treatments as well as identify those most at risk.

The launch of the new research environment fortifies the UK’s leadership position in genomics, with the aim of enabling global research collaboration, along with mainstreaming genomic medicine in UK healthcare in partnership with the NHS.

“Speed is of the essence and it has been heartening to see the dedication to getting this new infrastructure stood up as rapidly as possible,” said Chris Wigley, CEO at Genomics England. “Beyond the immediate focus on COVID-19, the advanced capabilities of the Lifebit and AWS environment will over time allow us to introduce contemporary bioinformatic workflows for researchers in rare disease and cancer research, unlocking the potential for the U.K. population genomic data to contribute to target discovery, functional genomics and advanced clinical trial design.”


Photo: Chris Wigley, CEO at Genomics England

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