With the aim to expedite its genomics research projects, the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), a research institution centered on molecular biology and large-scale genomics, has chosen Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its primary cloud service provider, said a statement.
CCMB functions under the umbrella of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and is deeply involved in studying genetic material, its variance across populations, and the impact of this variance on human health and diseases.
Many life sciences and genomics research entities generate vast amounts of data via next-generation high-throughput sequencers. Traditionally, these bodies utilised on-site servers to address their storage and computational requirements. However, due to increasing data sizes, CCMB had been acquiring more on-site storage. This resulted in a reliance on high-performance computing (HPC) clusters for analysis, which occasionally faced downtime, thereby impacting research schedules.
Highlighting the challenges and the potential of newer technologies, Dr. Divya Tej Sowpati, a genomics scientist at CSIR CCMB, stated, “At a time when genetics research is becoming critical…we must innovate using technologies like cloud computing to achieve outcomes faster and better.” Dr. Sowpati also noted the improvements brought about by AWS, mentioning how it enhanced their “ability to collaborate” and allowed researchers to focus more intently on vital research problems.
In a shift to cloud technology, CCMB moved 83 terabytes of genomics data to AWS through AWS Snowball, an offline data transfer service. This transition facilitated CCMB's use of the Amazon Genomics CLI tool, processing raw genomics and biological data more efficiently. Furthermore, it provided direct access to various genomics databases from the Registry of Open Data on AWS (RODA), sidestepping the need for local data downloads.
AWS said that by employing its capabilities, CCMB executed an analysis on 3,200 samples from the 1000 Genomes Project. The results were impressive; utilising a suite of AWS services, the research duration was significantly reduced, from an original 550 days to an average of just nine days.
The company also said that in recent projects, CCMB has undertaken the task of analysing breast cancer samples from the Indian population. The results showcased a 50 to 70% reduction in analysis time per sample, thanks to the computing capabilities of the AWS Cloud. Furthermore, in a distinct project, CCMB utilised AWS GPU instances to develop machine learning models aimed at detecting DNA modifications related to various diseases. The transition to AWS from on-premises servers dramatically reduced model training times.
Emphasizing the significance of genomics research in India, Pankaj Gupta, Leader – Public Sector at AWS India, said, “Understanding the genomic variation in India's population is a government priority… Finding greater computing efficiency at scale is well addressed by cloud computing… AWS is excited to work with CCMB to accelerate the translation of raw sequencing data into actionable insights.”
AWS said that the alliance between CCMB and AWS aligns with a growing trend of global research entities leveraging its platform for their endeavours, joining the ranks of entities like AstraZeneca, CSIRO, and Stanford University.