Sci & Tech

Amazon, Google Vie Over Human DNA Data Storage

Amazon, Google Vie Over Human DNA Data StorageAmazon, Google Vie Over Human DNA Data Storage

Amazon is in a race against Google to store data on human DNA, seeking both bragging rights in helping scientists make new medical discoveries and market share in a business that may be worth $1 billion a year by 2018, Reuters reported on Friday.

Academic institutions and healthcare companies are picking sides between their cloud computing offerings - Google Genomics or Amazon Web Services - spurring the two to one-up each other as they win high-profile genomics business, according to interviews with researchers, industry consultants and analysts.    

That growth is being propelled by the push for personalized medicine that aims to base treatments on a patient's DNA profile. The enormous quantities of data will reveal how particular genetic profiles respond to different treatments.

Clients view Google and Amazon as doing a better job storing genomics data than they can do using their own computers, keeping it secure, controlling costs and allowing it to be easily shared.

The cloud companies are going beyond storage to offer analytical functions that let scientists make sense of DNA data. Microsoft and International Business Machines are also competing for a slice of the market.

Now an estimated $100 million to $300 million business globally, the cloud genomics market is expected to grow to $1 billion by 2018, said research analyst Daniel Ives of investment bank FBR Capital. By that time, the entire cloud market should have $50 billion to $75 billion in annual revenue, up from about $30 billion now.

Neither Google nor Amazon discloses the amount of genomics data it holds, but based on interviews with analysts and genomic scientists, as well as the companies' own announcements of what customers they’ve won, Amazon Web Services may be bigger.

Another part of the cloud services' pitch to would-be customers is that their analytical tools can fish out genetic gold - a drug target, say, or a DNA variant that strongly predicts disease risk - from a sea of data. Any discoveries made through such searches belong to the owners of the data.

While academic and pharmaceutical research projects are the biggest customers for genomics cloud services, they will be overtaken by clinical applications in the next 10 years, said Google Genomics director of engineering, David Glazer.

Individual doctors will regularly access a cloud service to understand how a patient's genetic profile affects his risk of various diseases or his likely response to medication.

Matt Wood, general manager for Data Science at Amazon Web Services, sees cloud demand in genomics now as "a perfect storm," as the amount of data being created, the need for collaboration and the move of genomics into clinical care accelerate.

Experts on DNA and data say without access to the cloud, modern genomics would grind to a halt.