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Genetic data to flow faster through Europe

Géant, the pan-European data network provider, has released details of one of the successful projects being funded from the ‘Open Call’ for proposals that the organisation made last year. The project, Ares (Advanced networking for the EU genomic Research), aims to address the problem that genomic data is being generated faster than network resources can handle.

Ares is a collaboration between the University of Perugia (UoP) and the Polo d'Innovazione di Genomica, Genetica e Biologia also in Perugia to create a Content Distribution Network (CDN) architecture to allow healthcare practitioners to make use of rapidly increasing genomic data sets.

Gianluca Reali, coordinator at Ares, said: ‘We realised that doctors and genomic scientists in thousands of hospitals and research centres will not be able to quickly download and process the files they need to treat patients, without existing data networks creating bottlenecks.’

The project’s objective is to design and deploy scalable network service architectures that will allow quick, efficient delivery of genomic processing results to support European doctors and scientists. It will make use of both cloud computing and content distribution network architecture services in addition to open source software packages.

Reali continued: ‘We applied for the Géant Open Call funding to try and address this time-critical need. Genome science simply will not support healthcare practically and effectively without an innovative and unique infrastructure.’

Géant operates the pan-European research and education network that interconnects Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs). As part of its innovation programme, Géant issued an Open Call in 2013 for projects to bring in fresh ideas and support new uses of the network. Ares is one of 21 successful projects, each aligned to one of the Géant project’s joint research activities.

Reali concluded: ‘The Géant network allows many Ares collaborators to work together, and provides us with the infrastructure we need to gain a deeper understanding of network problems related to sustainable increases in the use of genomes for diagnostic and research purposes.

‘The infrastructure is the ideal environment to identify management policies of genomes and their auxiliary files. In particular, looking at efficiency, resiliency, scalability, and QoS in a distributed environment -- using a multi-user CDN approach.’

With the growth of genomics-based healthcare, it is expected that critical decisions will more and more be personalised to each patient using knowledge of their genome. In addition, public health, business and academia may want access to DNA sequences more frequently, as well as industries such as biology, food and medicine.

But one sequenced human genome creates a file equal to about 3.2 GB. The Catalog of Human Genetic Variation (1000 Genomes), for example, is 464 TB for just 1000 samples. So genomics is already creating very large data sets, and the volumes of data will grow by orders of magnitude. To allow researchers access to these data sets, regardless of where they are situated geographically, requires a powerful communications and network infrastructure.

Michael Enrico, technical coordinator for the Géant project said: ‘Ares is innovating an infrastructure that is likely to assist genomic doctors and researchers at potentially thousands of hospitals and clinics across Europe, supporting ground-breaking research, such as studying particular gene mutations.’


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