Sunday, February 13, 2011

Analyzing and Storing Genomics Data

In just the last 10 years, the cost of sequencing a million DNA base pairs has dropped from $10,000 to just $1. A single modern DNA sequencing machine can generate more data in a single day than could once be generated in a decade. Consequently, genomics researchers now face a looming problem, according to an article in Science - the speed and efficiency with which DNA sequence data can be produced will soon outstrip the ability of most computers to analyze and store the data! That’s right; despite huge gains in computer speed and storage capacity over the years, the computers are now lagging behind.

To combat this growing problem, bioinformatics specialists are increasingly turning to “cloud computing”, whereby data are analyzed and even stored on networks of computers off-site. But cloud computing raises complex new issues of data security, particularly when that data involves human subjects.

Perhaps if the cost of sequencing DNA continues to fall it may not even be necessary to store the data long-term; it could just be regenerated as needed.

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