G42 Healthcare operates the Middle East's biggest 'omics' centre, in Abu Dhabi. The Amazon Web Services deal is about leveraging that knowhow to the fullest. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Big Tech meeting the future of medical research? With lots of ‘cloud’ added to this mix? That would seem the immediate response when Amazon Web Services, the cloud arm of the US tech and ecommerce giant, signed up with Abu Dhabi’s G42 Healthcare to expand the possibilities with genomes.

According to Ashish Koshy, CEO of G42 Healthcare, this isn’t some rarefied area, but a building block towards understanding the nature of future diseases and ways to cure them.

The deal also throws the spotlight on Abu Dhabi’s interests in cutting-edge medical research, through alliances that run deep. Here, Koshy gives an overview of why the deal with AWS would matter, a lot.

Ashish Koshy, CEO of G42 Healthcare. Image Credit: Supplied

The G42 Healthcare-AWS tie up is about genomes. But isn’t AWS an all-out tech major rather than in the medical space?

One of the problems we see today is an abundance of samples, such as blood, tissue, and other human and non-human bio-resources. However, there is no such abundance of the sequencing infrastructure needed to translate biological samples into genomic data. Instead of biological samples remaining tucked away in a biobank, a hospital, or a research centre, we can now democratise access to genetic sequencing and proteomic capabilities by bringing the G42 Healthcare’s omics centre infrastructure to the world with AWS.

The partnership will help us serve our B2G, B2B, and B2C clients with scalable, bespoke sequencing solutions as a service for clinical, consumer and research purposes. We intend to make our offerings globally available via the AWS cloud infrastructure allowing us to engage with clients all over.

We can deliver omics and insights as an ‘on-demand service’ – samples can be shipped to G42 Healthcare for sequencing and analysis, and best-in-class genomic and proteomic data is wired back to the client, while stored safely and securely on the AWS cloud system.

We are also developing advanced analytics and bioinformatics offerings as part of this partnership.

So, who is it for?

Governments and researchers will benefit from access to Next-generation Sequencing (NGS) or Third-Generation Sequencing (TGS) technologies, proteomics, and data analytics, supported by the most flexible and secure cloud computing environment available.

G42 Healthcare can turn genomic data into biological insight, informing drug discovery and clinical applications to uncover new correlations and public data. Beyond DNA sequencing, we can leverage this new capability for proteomics (the study of proteins). We can receive samples from anywhere in the world, offer local sequencing, proteomic analysis and when needed biobanking, and dispatch data globally, at scale and speed.

G42 Healthcare’s Omics Centre of Excellence - the region’s largest omics centre based in Abu Dhabi - can deliver over 500,000 whole-genome sequences annually. This partnership will enable quick and efficient global data storage and transfer to clients anywhere at any time. (Omics is the branch of sciences that pools together understanding of genomics, proteomics, phenomics, etc.)

And G42 Healthcare already has access to extensive genomic capabilities?

G42 Healthcare operates one of the largest genomic sequencing farms in the world. We can deliver over 500,000 genome samples per year and operate all three major technology providers - Illumina, BGI and ONT.

Our partnership with AWS focuses on taking this unique infrastructure and transforming how the data it delivers reaches the world. In this respect, what AWS brings is a global cloud network for the data we generate on behalf of our clients.

And this means globally leading data governance, privacy, information security and compliance with the strictest of norms.

Would this require approvals from those whose data will be shared by AWS?

Explicit patient consent is at the heart of healthcare and data protection laws. There are relevant contracts and provisions in place as data security, governance and privacy are at the very heart of G42 Healthcare and AWS operations.

Why did you go for AWS? What do they bring to the table?

AWS has a genomic ‘aware’ data infrastructure that will enable G42 Healthcare to provide sequencing as a service at a global scale. AWS offerings help accelerate time to insights given their portfolio size of science and genomic solutions. That coupled with agility and scalability that is powered by an extensive global infrastructure with 300+ Edge locations to support data sovereignty.

They are known to have access to 70+ life sciences datasets and a secure infrastructure for global collaboration, which helps clients save up to 90 per cent of compute costs and long-term data storage costs. AWS supports 98 security standards and compliance certifications - more than any other offering.