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Autism Speaks, Google Partner on ASD Genomic Data Resource

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Autism Speaks said today it will collaborate with Google to create a database of genomic information on autism spectrum disorder that will be an open resource for use by autism researchers and will be available via the Google Cloud Platform.

The partners will store, analyze, and make accessible data from the Autism Speaks Ten Thousand Genomes Program (AUT10K), a collaboration between Autism Speaks and the Hospital for Sick Children's Centre for Applied Genomics.

The AUT10K project builds on Autism Speaks' Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE), a collection of genetic samples from 12,000 autism cases that includes diagnoses and detailed phenotyping information that has been in operation for 15 years. The project is led by Stephen Scherer, who directs the applied genomics center at SickKids. Scherer recently led a research project that developed a technique for calculating an individual's genetic risk for ASD, and he currently oversees genomics research projects funded with $10 million.

Autism Speaks said the project, and the collaboration with Google, could lead to breakthroughs in understanding the causes and subtypes of the disease, as well as to better methods for diagnosing and treating it.

The AUT10K project has already completed the sequencing of 1,000 cases, and currently has nearly 2,000 more samples lined up, with most of these cases coming from the AGRE program. In March, the project received $3 million in backing through a donation from the Gordon & Llura Gund Foundation.

Autism Speaks said the amount of data the project is generating creates challenges, particularly for storing, analyzing, and providing remote access to it for outside researchers, but it added that using the Google Cloud will address these problems.

"The collaboration between a pioneering tech company and the foremost autism science organization has the potential to transform the autism research landscape in exceptional ways," Scherer said in a statement.