DNAstack Launches COVID-19 Beacon to Accelerate Sharing Genomic Data in the Fight Against Novel Coronavirus


TORONTO, March 20, 2020 – DNAstack today introduced a Beacon for SARS-CoV-2, commonly known as COVID-19, available at covid-19.dnastack.com. This beacon will enable the scientific and medical communities to share and discover knowledge about the genetics of the virus in real time.

COVID-19 has quickly become a global pandemic, with more than 209,800 confirmed cases and 8,770 deaths in 168 countries to date. Analysis of the viral genomes, combined with clinical and epidemiological data, can track whether the virus is changing and how it is being transmitted, and potentially identify targets for diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines.

“There is an urgent need to respond to this virus in a coordinated way and we urge researchers and clinicians worldwide to openly share genetic and other biological data to fight COVID-19,” said Marc Fiume, CEO of DNAstack. “What we know about the virus is changing hourly as researchers and clinicians accumulate and analyze data. At DNAstack, we are looking to deploy our technologies for biomedical data access, discovery, and analysis to support researchers investigating the virus, starting with Beacon. The COVID-19 Beacon will allow information about genetic variants to be shared instantly using software that follows an open international standard.”

Researchers can use the new Beacon to discover sequences with specific genetic mutations and map their geographic and evolutionary origins. The platform integrates derivative data from genetic sequencing libraries such as GISAID and links to Nextstrain pathogen evolution visualizations. Sharing genomic information over a cloud-based global network has the potential to improve our knowledge at a speed and scale that isn’t otherwise possible, and inform new ways to fight the virus.

DNAstack’s effort to build foundational software for collaborative biomedical research has been stimulated through its membership in the Digital Technology Supercluster, a cross-industry collaboration of diverse organizations that aims to position Canada as a global leader in digital technologies while solving industry’s and society’s most challenging problems.

“DNAstack has demonstrated remarkable leadership in their innovative and collaborative approach towards finding a solution for COVID-19,” said Sue Paish, CEO, Digital Technology Supercluster. “The global opportunity to aggregate, track and share real-time data across medical communities has enormous potential to unlock a cure for the virus. On behalf of the Digital Supercluster, we are proud and optimistic to be partnering with DNAstack in support of accelerating the impact of this project.”

By bringing together small and large companies, research organizations and government agencies, the Supercluster aims to make an impact with the speed and magnitude that no single organization could achieve on its own. The Supercluster manages investments provided by the Government of Canada’s Innovation Superclusters Initiative and the public and private organizations that constitute its membership.

To create this service, DNAstack has leveraged an existing technical standard that has powered millions of searches across billions of genetic mutations found in human subjects, to enable the real-time discovery of mutations in strains of the virus being sequenced around the world. The COVID-19 Beacon is compliant with the Beacon API, an internationally recognized open-source protocol developed by the Global Alliance for Genomic and Health (GA4GH). The system is deployed on Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing platform with global reach and scalability, which will afford researchers unprecedented capacity and data access controls as analytic features and clinical data are integrated.

“We are proud to support innovators like DNAstack through our membership in the Digital Technology Supercluster,” said Kevin Peesker, President of Microsoft Canada. “This solution put forward by DNAstack will help to bring researchers together in this challenging time.”

The COVID-19 Beacon is a first step in DNAstack’s efforts to support the research community with cloud-based tools for discovering, accessing, socializing, and computing on data related to the virus. This service is intended to help share data on COVID-19 as broadly as possible, and connect a global ecosystem of data generators and researchers. DNAstack invites those interested in making data available through this service, or using it for analysis, to get in touch.

About DNAstack
DNAstack’s mission is to improve the lives of millions of people by breaking down barriers to data sharing and discovery. DNAstack develops standards and technologies for scientists to more efficiently find, access, and analyze the world’s exponentially growing volumes of genomic and biomedical data. For additional support or partnership interest, please contact us by email to [email protected].


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