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Google Opens Cloud to Help Decode the Genetics of Autism

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Google is partnering with autism advocacy group Autism Speaks and opens its Cloud platform to help decode the genetics of the developmental disability.

On Tuesday, Dec. 9, Autism Speaks announced the launch of its awareness program called "MSSNG," which will focus to support the development and expansion of a database of sequenced genomic information on 10,000 people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their family members. The group suggests that the database will be the largest in the world.

The awareness campaign reads "MSSNG" (pronounced missing) and the vowels have been deliberately removed to represent the mystery of the autism puzzle. The missing vowels are a symbol of missing information related to the developmental disorder.

Autism Speaks revealed that it is partnering with Google to collect sequenced data from MSSNG on the Internet giant's Cloud Platform. Scientists and researchers working on autism across the world will have access to the database as it will be available as an open resource.

"Previously known as The Autism Speaks Ten Thousand Genomes Program (AUT10K), MSSNG is a significant milestone in advancing genomic research of autism and could lead to breakthroughs into the causes, subtypes and better diagnosis and treatment for the disorder," per Autism Speaks.

Rob Ring, the chief science officer of Autism Speaks suggests that the advocacy group believes that the clues of understanding autism lie in the genome.

The MSSNG awareness campaign will utilize Google Genomics, which is a tool that was launched by Google a few months ago. Ring suggests that sequencing of the human genome is becoming faster and cheaper, which will allow more research by scientists worldwide. The awareness campaign will let researchers to upload their data online and Google will get an opportunity to improve the abilities of its cloud and at the same time provide important service.

David Glazer, the director of engineering for Google Genomics and formerly director of engineering for Google Plus, revealed users will have the option to search data on specific regions rather than just keywords. Glazer suggests that a sole human genome can take up to 100 gigabytes (GB). Centralized data will make it easier and faster for researchers to access the data without waiting for data to be shipped.

Ring says that Autism Speaks was collecting genomic data for over a decade. He believes that the MSSNG campaign will be valuable as it will allow quick and easy access for faster research on Autism.

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