At the turn of the millennium, the cost to sequence a single human genome exceeded $50 million and the process took several years. Today, researchers can sequence a genome in a single afternoon for just few thousand dollars. Technological advances have ushered in the era of “Big Data,” where biologists collect immense datasets, seeking patterns that may explain important diseases or identify drug and vaccine targets. But what to do with it? Making data easy to find, use, access and organize for researchers has become one of the biggest challenges for science. But scientists, government funding agencies and universities working to keep up just received some great new support:
A genome database team led by University of Pennsylvania and University of Georgia scientists has been awarded a new contract from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease worth $4.3 million in 2014-2015. Assuming annual renewal, this five-year award is expected to total $23.4 million.
The team has been responsible for developing genome database resources for microbial pathogens, including the parasites responsible for malaria, sleeping sickness, toxoplasmosis and many other important diseases.
The new contract ensures work will continue on the Eukaryotic Pathogen Genomics Database—known as EuPathDB—to provide the global scientific community with free access to a wealth of genomic data related to microbial pathogens important to human health and biosecurity. EuPathDB expedites biomedical research in the lab, field and clinic, enabling the development of innovative diagnostics, therapies and vaccines.
EuPathDB receives over 6 million hits from 13,000 unique visitors in more than 100 countries each month. Dr. Kissinger, principal investigator from UGA, puts it well:
"The costs and time required for genome sequencing have plummeted in the past 10 years thanks to advances in technology," Kissinger said. "Organizing this data, maintaining it in a way that is accessible and easy to use for researchers around the world, 24 hours a day, is our great challenge-and one that presents exciting opportunities for funders and other philanthropic organizations that support pathogen research."
We're excited for the UGA team, their colleagues at UPenn and the UGA Institute of Bioinformatics, which provides most of the systems administration for the entire EuPathDB - a feat in and of itself. Congratulations to these scientists working beyond their fields to strengthen research into all fields - the vast expansion of data capacity, sharing and transfer has probably had the greatest impact on science as a whole since the invention of the microscope. More on Kissinger and her work here.