Software Engineers: Cancer Research Needs You

    Software engineers are becoming integral to the war on cancer as efforts attempt to harness increased computing power.

    It’s creating huge opportunities for companies such as Microsoft, SAP and Amazon, according to a Reuters story.

    Companies such as Life Technologies and Illumina are creating equipment that can map a person’s entire genetic code from a cell sample, it says:

    The newest machines are about the size of an office printer and can sequence a genome in a day, compared with six to eight weeks a few years ago. They can read the 3.2 billion chemical “bases” that make up the human genetic code for $1,000, compared with $100,000 dollars in 2008.

    Indeed, increasing computing power and advances in gene sequencing are among the factors Houston cancer center M.D. Anderson cited in recently announcing its “moonshot” effort to eradicate eight forms of cancer.

    The Reuters story says software engineers are needed to help make sense of the massive amounts of data generated, though it’s not clear whether that means providing the technology such as cloud computing to do so or whether that refers to Big Data analysis. It quotes Gad Getz, who heads the Cancer Genome Analysis group at the Broad Institute in Boston, as saying:

    Many labs can now generate the data but fewer people or labs have the expertise and infrastructure to analyze it — this is becoming the bottleneck.

    It refers to Getz as part of a new generation of computational biologists who develop algorithms to parse data from tens of thousands of cell samples. Hans Lehrach at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, also is described as a geneticist who has written software code throughout his scientific career.

    It seems coding is becoming an essential skill in health care research as well as in business.

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