UBC works with Dell to establish ‘big data’ warehouse for genomic medicine

The University of British Columbia (UBC) implemented a big data warehouse solution for the sequencing and analysis of genomes of 20,000 individuals built on Dell’s PowerEdge server hardware, Dell Canada announced this week.

Specifically, UBC’s Personalized Medicine Initiative (PMI) has developed big data analytics initiatives such as the Molecular You Pathfinder project — through PMI spin-off company Molecular You Corp (MYCo) — to establish a full molecular genomic profile of participants and identify how an individual’s genes affect the response to drugs.

According to Dell Deployment Services, the IT environment at the UBC facility — known as the PHEMI Central Big Data Warehouse solution — incorporates Dell PowerEdge 320 servers operating PHEMI’s front-end management node as well as two master nodes running Apache Hadoop, the open-source analytics platform that processes massive data sets.

This includes data nodes based on Dell PowerEdge 720xd servers to run Accumulo and Hadoop data processes. Dell Networking 10GbE switches connect the servers, the company said.

“Big data” refers to data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate. In the case of genetics, big data is an ideal fit, considering genes are all about information; according to a recent report, by 2025, between 100 million and 2 billion human genomes could have been sequenced — meaning that computing and storage requirements for analyzing genomics data is due to be an ongoing concern.

By using big data analytics to combine and study complex and diverse data sets, MYCo can then establish medical behaviour, including the health status of an individual and how a person’s genetic makeup might affect their response to medication. This enables the ability to prescribe a personalized treatment plan intended to cure that individual’s chronic condition, according to the company.

“Big data gives us a huge opportunity to tackle diseases and hopefully pick them off one by one,” said Rob Fraser, COO of UBC’s PMI and co-founder of MYCo in a statement.


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