As the spaceshuttle program comes to an end we are reminded of the role of goverments in birthing industries. And just like the manned space program, genomics has been mostly government funded and just like the space program it’s about to take a big hit:
Recently, NCBI announced that due to budget constraints, it would be discontinuing its Sequence Read Archive (SRA) and Trace Archive repositories for high-throughput sequence data. However, NIH has since committed interim funding for SRA in its current form until October 1, 2011.
With its fall there will be few if any (Japan: DDBJ & Europe: ERA) centralized public databases for nextgen sequencing. Once again we’re left to ride with the ruskies, figuratively speaking. Enter private industry and its first batter, from the SF Bay Area, DNA Nexus. Though Sundquist and his team have managed to create a very well polished and modern platform, unlike SRA there is no data aggregation. There is no public pool where researchers can access data. This is a problem in that much of the power of genomics comes from studying statistical trends and a large, public data pool is to date the best way to make any sense of what our genes say.
A similar private effort from the great innovators across the ocean comes in the form of Simbiot by Japan Bioinformatics K.K. At the moment Simbiot is edging a lead as they’ve recently released two mobile applications allowing sequence data management and analysis on the go. However, just as with DNA Nexus users are only given the option to keep their data within their own accounts or share with select others. Both of the aforementioned companies have well thought-out price plans, sleek interfaces and well produced videos. But what makes government efforts like the SRA valuable is that for a time they provided a centralized public data pool.
As anyone who’s seen the now infamous graph of the rate of decrease in sequencing costs vs that of Moore’s law will likely have figured out by now, the costs associated with maintaining a sequencing database only increases with adoption of the technology. As such, it was reasonable for Uncle Sam to pay for this party at first but the costs rise every year, by leaps. There must be a private model that is both aggregate & open in nature but can also pull it’s own weight in terms of cost; the future of healthcare and any form of “genomics industry” may well be dependant on it.