Source: Technology Review
Gene research and Silicon Valley-style computing are starting to merge.
WHY IT MATTERS: The number of human genomes being sequenced is increasing exponentially.
Genome scientist and entrepreneur J. Craig Venter is best known for being the first person to sequence his own genome, back in 2001.
This year, he started a new company, Human Longevity, which intends to sequence one million human genomes by 2020, and ultimately offer Web-based programs to help people store and understand their genetic data.
Venter says that he’s sequenced 500 people’s genomes so far, and that volunteers are starting to also undergo a battery of tests measuring their strength, brain size, how much blood their hearts pump, and, says Venter, “just about everything that can be measured about a person, without cutting them open.” This information will be fed into a database that can be used to discover links between genes and these traits, as well as disease.
But that’s going to require some massive data crunching. To get these skills, Venter recruited Franz Och, the machine-learning specialist leading Google Translate. Now Och will apply similar methods to studying genomes in a data science and software shop that Venter is establishing in Mountain View, California.
The hire comes just as Google itself has launched a similar-sounding effort to start collecting biomedical data. Venter calls Google’s plans for a biomedical database “a baby step, a much smaller version of what we are doing.”
What’s clear is that genome research and data science are coming together in new ways, and at a much larger scale than ever before. We asked Venter why. Read the rest of this entry »