Microsoft rolls out genomics service on Azure cloud

Microsoft launched genomic processing services on Azure, the company's cloud computing service, in the U.S., Western Europe and Southeast Asia Feb. 28.

The service, dubbed Microsoft Genomics, comprises a set of cloud-based processing tools for clinicians and scientists pursuing genomics research. The Microsoft Genomics service is part of Healthcare NExT, an initiative the company rolled out in early 2017 to integrate artificial intelligence and cloud computing advancements into the healthcare industry.

The Microsoft Genomics service aims to accelerate genomics research by preparing clean and accurate data. The service utilizes processing tools to reduce "artifacts and noise that can cloud the [genomic] data," according to a Feb. 28 Microsoft blog post. Storing genomic data on the Azure cloud also proves useful for researchers, since a single human genome takes up roughly 100 gigabytes of storage space.

"We know we need to have good data and if we can make it very, very easy for people to have good data, then we can bring the biological information to analytical tools in the cloud and, hopefully, make people much more productive and improve their discovery rate," said Bob Davidson, a principal software architect in Microsoft's genomics group.

Microsoft developed Microsoft Genomics in partnership with Memphis, Tenn.-based St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and DNAnexus, a platform for managing genomic data that runs on Azure. To date, collaborators from St. Jude have stored a half petabyte of genomic data — enough to fill 750,000 standard CD-ROM discs — on Azure for analysis.

The Microsoft Genomics service is covered by Microsoft under the HIPAA Business Associate Agreement.

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