The Problem With Big DNA

February 11, 2019

Suppose a patient has an unusual brain infection, says Jennifer Gardy, a genomic epidemiologist who until recently was at the University of British Columbia and who was not involved with the project. Suppose it’s a pathogen that the doctor doesn’t recognize. Before BIGSI (BItsliced Genomic Signature Index), the pathogen’s particular sequence might have been hiding in one of those 500,000 genomes. But a mountain of data is only as good as your ability to search it. “We can now go back and look through all of the DNA, through all of the other experiments that had done sequencing. Loads and loads of DNA,” Gardy says. For the first time, it’s possible to easily answer a question as simple as: “Have we seen this thing before?”

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