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Google To Assist With Autism Research


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Autism Speaks said it will work with Google to make the full genomes of 10,000 people with autism and their family members available to researchers through the Google Cloud Platform. (Shutterstock)

Autism Speaks said it will work with Google to make the full genomes of 10,000 people with autism and their family members available to researchers through the Google Cloud Platform. (Shutterstock)

Google is partnering with the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization in what’s being called an unprecedented move that could transform what’s known about the developmental disorder.

Autism Speaks said Google will house data from the complete genomes of 10,000 people with autism and their families on its servers in a format that’s readily accessible to researchers online.

The collaboration is a “game-changer,” according to Rob Ring, chief science officer at Autism Speaks. Traditionally, sharing this type of genomic information involved transporting physical hard drives.

Google’s computing power will change that, putting what’s expected to be the world’s largest database of genomic sequence information on individuals with autism and their family members at the fingertips of scientists worldwide.

“Modern biology has become a data-limited science. Modern computing can remove those limits,” said David Glazer, engineering director for Google Genomics.

Officials with Autism Speaks say the effort, which is part of the group’s AUT10K program, could help uncover causes and subtypes of autism while also identifying better diagnosis and treatment methods.

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Comments (8 Responses)

  1. Bjorn says:

    Too bad they’re partnering with Autism Speaks, this makes me nervous they’ll just become part of an even bigger bureaucracy that focuses on scare tactics and statistics instead of self-advocacy and services. Technology has the potential to play such an important role in fostering independence and to see Google spearhead this would be fantastic, but Autism Speaks does not share my vision for an inclusive society.

  2. Brandon Bradley says:

    Can I volunteer to help understand autism even if I’m adopted and have no idea who my “real” parents are? I don’t want people with autism to be isolated as I have been…I want them just to viewed as different (in a good way). I order to have this drastic change happen, we need to band together to understand autism. don’t get me wrong, living with autism is no picnic: because of it my parents say I can’t ever get behind the wheel…of anything. but if only I can make the lives of people with autism just a little bit easier, I’d die a happy man. Please give me an answer, and please don’t expect an immediate response as I don’t check my email often. I’ll accept whatever your answer is…

  3. Jennifer says:

    This will move forward the eugenics studies Autism Speaks funds and supports. Way to go, Google. How many employees do you have on the spectrum? You are aiding research which will prevent people like them – and myself – from ever existing. Throwing the baby out with the bath water on an extreme level. Thanks for showing the world you don’t side with diversity and inclusion.

  4. Ray Howe says:

    The first thing to look at should be the work that Dr. Andrew Wakefield has done on Autism . he has been vilified by the UK medical ass. but in my veiw he is right in saying that it is lincked to the MMR vaccines . Please have an open mind on all possiblities . Will Autism Speaks have an influance on what you do ? see Bjorn post .
    I hope and pray that the truth will come out soon.

  5. Whitney says:

    Mine either. I think Google could have provided the training and job placement for people with Autism.

  6. Whitney says:

    My guess that Google is believing that Autism Speaks supports people with Autism. It is really misnomer the name implies this organization speaks for people on the spectrum. Many people support Autism Speaks because of the wholesome image that implies and not looking at the rhetoric that the organization espouses. How can an organization who suppose to be for one group when that group dead set against it. Simply they can’t. Google employs many on the spectrum and this venture is away of supporting those employees. Autism Speaks is good pulling the wool over people eyes and Google is no different.

  7. Teresa says:

    I think such a registry could lead to some groundbreaking genetic discoveries for autism, but also for seizure disorders and other neuropsych disorders–provided attention is given to some details: Medical history of DNA donors with autism (and their family members when possible) will need to be recorded. Autism is strongly associated with a higher risk of seizures, and with a family history of psychiatric disease. The relationship between these can be teased apart better if the DNA is provided in the context of person and family medical history. It is VERY important that the project is under IRB review and approval and that HIPAA protections are in place. To maximize positive research outcomes, the data (with privacy protections in place) needs to be accessible to researchers worldwide (much like NHANES data, or cancer registries), particularly ones with no vested interest in google or the Autism Speaks charity so as to prevent conflicts of interest. I see no problem with the sponsorship as long as the research remains independent of corporate and financial objectives (of google and of A.S.). As for those worried genetic research leading to the elimination of individuals with ASD from society…that’s a huge and unfounded leap in logic. For those who fall between the middle and severe ends of the spectrum and who suffer comorbid symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations, severe sensory perception problems, and debilitating impairment of cognitive, speech, or social functions, research that could shed light into the genetic causes and into what differentiates such cases from more higher functioning and adaptable counterparts on the spectrum, with the ultimate hope of developing therapies for those more significantly affected, those who truly are disabled by autism. Such an endeavor is the result of compassion and the value of inclusion, not the opposite.

  8. Teresa says:

    Yes I realize my sentence structure is off in my earlier post…something that happens when I write late at night. I wasn’t able to edit it once I discovered it. Please no grammar bashing.

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