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Illumina Partners with iHART to Provide Autism Data on BaseSpace

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Illumina said today that it is partnering with researchers involved in the Hartwell Autism Research and Technology Initiative (iHART) to establish an open-access repository of bioinformatic data on autism spectrum disorders on BaseSpace.

Specifically, Illumina will host 5,000 genomes of individuals with autism and their families from the National Institute of Mental Health genetics repository in BaseSpace, where researchers can access and analyze it. In addition, researchers will also have access to resources such as Amazon RedShift, a petabyte-scale data warehouse that offers tools for analyzing, storing, and exploring genomic data across large populations on BaseSpace.

IHART is a collaborative research effort involving Stanford University, the New York Genome Center, and the University of California, Los Angeles that is funded by a $9 million grant from the Hartwell Foundation with additional support from the Simons Foundation. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide easy access to phenotypic, proteomic, metabolomic, and genomic datasets along with brain activity measurements and imaging, gut microbiome data, blood-based biomarkers, physicians' notes, diagnostic tests, and treatment protocols from potentially 10,000 individuals with autism and their families. The platform will also feature a user-friendly portal through which researchers, family members, and other interested individuals will be able to access the data.

The iHART initiative is led by Dennis Wall, an associate professor of systems medicine in Stanford's pediatrics department and principal investigator on the project; and Dan Geschwind, a UCLA professor of neurology, psychiatry, and human genetics and director of  UCLA's Center for Autism Research and Treatment.  Both Wall and Geschwind will direct the analysis of the data; and Wall will lead the integration of the data and development of the cloud-based computing and communications technology platform, according to Illumina.

"The complexity of autism requires big data scientific initiatives like this that are openly accessible and act as a sandbox in which all qualified researchers can play," Wall said in a statement. "Ultimately we hope our effort will help define the forms of autism and bring sufficient clarity for marker development and much more."