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Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology innovates on AWS to Advance Genomics Research in India

by Amelia Ramiro

AWS Chosen as Preferred Cloud Provider by Premier Genomics Research Organisation in India

Amazon Web Services (AWS) India Private Limited has recently announced that the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), a leading research organization focused on modern molecular biology and population-scale genomics, has selected AWS as its preferred cloud provider. This partnership aims to accelerate CCMB’s genomics research projects.

Under the guidance of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), CCMB is primarily focused on studying genetic material, particularly how it varies among populations and how these variances can impact human health and disease. As a result, life sciences and genomics research organizations like CCMB generate vast amounts of data from high-throughput sequencers, which requires extensive storage and computational capabilities.

Traditionally, these organizations relied on on-premises servers for data storage and analysis. However, due to the data-intensive nature of genomics research, CCMB often faced challenges related to scalability, performance, and downtime. In order to overcome these obstacles and seamlessly expand their data storage and analysis capabilities, CCMB turned to cloud computing.

Dr. Divya Tej Sowpati, a genomics scientist at the CSIR CCMB, highlighted the importance of leveraging technology like cloud computing in genetics research, stating, “At a time when genetics research is becoming critical for life sciences advancement, disease diagnosis, and drug development, we must innovate using technologies like cloud computing to achieve outcomes faster and better.” AWS has allowed CCMB to not only speed up sample analysis but also achieve more consistent results in their research.

CCMB successfully migrated 83 terabytes of genomics data from on-premises servers to AWS using the secure offline data transport service, AWS Snowball. Additionally, CCMB used Amazon Genomics CLI, an open-source tool, to migrate their genomic analysis toolkit and bioinformatics data pipelines for secondary analysis. They were able to access multiple genomics databases from the Registry of Open Data on AWS (RODA) without needing to locally download the data, saving significant time.

By running on AWS infrastructure, CCMB managed to significantly reduce the time taken for research analysis. For example, CCMB performed short tandem repeat (STR) genotyping on 3,200 samples from the 1000 Genomes Project, reducing research analysis time by up to 98%. In another project focused on breast cancer samples, CCMB leveraged CPU and GPU-accelerated computing on AWS Cloud to reduce analysis time per sample by 50 to 70%.

CCMB also utilized AWS GPU instances to train and test machine learning (ML) neural network models on long-read data from Oxford Nanopore sequencers. This allowed them to detect DNA modifications associated with diseases such as cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and cardiovascular diseases with an accuracy rate exceeding 91%. Training these models on AWS reduced the time taken from several days on their on-premise servers to approximately three to four hours per dataset.

Pankaj Gupta, Leader of Public Sector (Government, Education, Healthcare) at AWS India Private Limited, highlighted the significance of this collaboration, stating, “Understanding the genomic variation in India’s population is a government priority towards developing precision healthcare and diagnostics, and delivering them at affordable costs… AWS is excited to work with CCMB to accelerate the translation of raw sequencing data into actionable insights through our scalable, powerful, and secure services.”

CCMB joins a list of distinguished genomics research institutions worldwide that have chosen to run their genomics research on AWS. This includes organizations such as AstraZeneca, CSIRO, GRAIL, Illumina, Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance, National Institutes of Health, Regeneron, and Stanford University.

Overall, this partnership between CCMB and AWS is a significant step forward in advancing genetics research in India. By leveraging the power of cloud computing, CCMB can expedite their research efforts, enable collaborations, and focus on solving complex genetic variations in diseases. This collaboration also highlights the growing importance of cloud computing in genomics research and its ability to address the challenges faced by research institutions in terms of infrastructure and costs.

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