Microsoft makes genome sequencing tools run seven times faster on Azure

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While genomic analysis is expected to become increasingly important to diagnose genetics condition in the future, it seems that the Microsoft Cloud could very well contribute to the kickstart of a genomics revolution in the coming years. In a new blog post, the Redmond giant explained today how its Azure cloud allowed two different genome sequencing methods to run seven times faster than before, providing critical time savings to medical professionals.

As of today, researchers and medics are using both the Burrows-Wheeler Aligner (BWA) and the Broad Institute’s Genome Analysis Toolkit (GATK) for genome sequencing. As Microsoft explained, both methods which rely on complex computational work can be executed much more efficiently on the company’s Azure cloud:

Cloud computing is ideal for this type of computational work, because it takes a lot computing power, requires a lot of data storage and requests can come in fits and bursts. For most hospitals, research labs and other biological sciences facilities it would be too expensive to invest in the necessary computing capability, and impractical to take on the job of hosting all that data on their own, if only because the sheer volume of data is growing exponentially.

This new use case for Microsoft's cloud computing platform enables significant cost savings and could be fascinating for hospitals, clinics and research institutions who currently face an exponential growth of genome sequencing requests. “It’s getting to the point where tens of thousands of genomes are being sequenced, so efficiency really matters,” explained Ravi Pandya, a principal software architect in Microsoft’s genomics group.

For now, Microsoft is working with the Broad Institute to improve future versions of its Genome Analysis Toolkit. Ultimately, the company’s genomics team would like to partner with hospitals and other healthcare institutions to find more use cases for its Azure cloud in healthcare. We invite you to read the full blog post to learn more about Microsoft’s genomics-related efforts.

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