As the gap between theoretical treatment and clinical application for precision medicine continues to shrink, we’re inching closer to having the practice of doctors using individual human genomes to prescribe specific care strategies become a commonplace reality.
Organizations such as the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a leading biomedical research institute, are on the forefront of enabling a new generation of life-saving treatments. With innovations from TGen, breakthroughs in genetic sequencing are unraveling mysteries of complex diseases like cancer.
To help achieve its goal to successfully use –omics to prevent, diagnose and treat disease, the Phoenix-based non-profit research institute selected Dell EMC to enhance its IT system and infrastructure to manage its petabyte-size sequencing cluster.
The time and cost of genomic sequencing for a single person has dropped dramatically since the Human Genome Project, which spanned 13 years and cost $1 billion. Today, sequencing can be completed in roughly one day for approximately $1,000. Furthermore, technological advances in sequencing and on the IT front have enabled TGen to increase the number of patients being sequenced from the hundreds to the thousands annually. To handle the storage output from current sequencing technologies and emerging single molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing, TGen required an infrastructure with the storage capacity and performance to support big data repositories produced by genetic sequencing—even as they grow exponentially.
“When you get more sequencers that go faster and run cheaper, and the more people are being sequenced, you’re going to need more resources in order to process this tsunami of data,” said James Lowey, TGen’s CIO.
TGen stores vast amounts of data generated by precision medicine, such as genetic data and data from wearables including glucose monitors and pain management devices, as well as clinical records and population health statistics. Scientists must then correlate and analyze this information to develop a complete picture of an individual’s illness and potential treatment. This involves TGen’s sequencing cluster churning through one million CPU hours per month and calls for a storage solution that is also able to maintain high availability, which is critical to the around the clock research environment.
Benefits for Researchers
In the coming years, researchers can expect genetic sequences to increase in addition to SMRT sequencing paving the way for larger data volumes.
Lowey notes, “As genetic data continues to grow exponentially, it’s even more important to have an extremely reliable infrastructure to manage that data and make it accessible to the scientists 24/7.”
Having a robust storage infrastructure in place allows researchers to fully devote their time and attention on the core business of science without worrying if there’s enough disk space or processing capacity. It also helps scientists get more precise treatments to patients faster, enabling breakthroughs that lead to life-saving and life-changing medical treatments – the ultimate goal of TGen and like-minded research institutes.
With the likelihood of sequencing clusters growing to exabyte-scale, TGen and its peers must continue to seek out an enterprise approach that emphasizes reliability and scalability and ensures high availability of critical data for 24/7 operations.
Lowey summarizes the future of precision medicine and IT by saying, “The possibilities are endless, but the real trick is to build all of that backend infrastructure to support it.”
To learn more about Dell EMC’s work with TGen, check out our video below.