COVID GPAS Image by Syaibatul Hamdi from Pixabay Oracle continues to support Oxford University and the companies it has founded. Following the announcement of a partnership and $150 million investment in Oxford Nanopore last week, a spin-out from Oxford University Oracle is now helping in the fight against COVID.

Oracle is assisting researchers with its Global Pathogen Analysis System (GPAS) running on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. The Global research community can leverage GPAS to identify and act quickly in response to new coronavirus mutations. The platform was built by using Oxford’s Scalable Pathogen Pipeline Platform (SP3), Oracle APEX, and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI).

It is now being used globally, both by government bodies, universities and industries. Organisations using the platform include the University of Montreal Hospital Centre Research Centre, the Institute of Public Health Research of Chile, the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam, the Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research – New South Wales Pathology, and Oxford Nanopore Technologies. It is also now part of the Public Health England New Variant Assessment Platform.

Once genomic sequences are identified in variants they are uploaded to the platform and participants receive the results in minutes. Organisations can then share the findings securely with fellow global researchers if they wish to do so. It helps to rapidly identify new mutations and allow an organisation to mitigate risks associated with new outbreaks. Once shared it enables the researcher to identify and flag any variants of concern. GPAS is being provided as a free resource to help combat COVID-19.

A global challenge needs a global response.

The impact of COVID is so great, that it needs a global response both from technology companies and researchers. Oxford University and Oracle have made the solution available to the global network of research scientists that should help in what is becoming a drawn-out fight.

Derrick Crook, professor of microbiology at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine commented, “GPAS is the first industry standards-based service anywhere in the world, offering a standardised sequence data analysis service for users on the cloud.

“Users will be able to access, upload and process their sequence data fully under their sovereign control and receive back fully analysed data in as little as 20 minutes of successful upload.

“If they select to share data, they will contribute to electronic dashboard visualisations of global data revealing the daily changes in the way the pandemic is progressing and how the virus is changing. This will enable continuous assessment of the pandemic and help guide national and global interventions to curb the impact of the virus.”

Larry Ellison Executive Chairman of the Board and Chief Technology Officer (source Oracle)
Laryy Ellison Executive Chairman of the Board and Chief Technology OfficerEllison

Larry Ellison, founder, Oracle Chairman and CTO sees this as a practical way that the organisation can help be at the forefront of fighting the virus. He commented,  “COVID-19 is a global fight, yet researchers have lacked the technical infrastructure to process raw sequences quickly, securely and share those results worldwide. With GPAS, we are bringing the power and security of the cloud to enable any researcher, in any location to become part of the solution. The more data that medical institutions, governments, and academics provide, the more quickly we can understand and act to get ahead of the coronavirus.”

The special relationship

Whilst the political climate between the US and UK has at times been fractious, despite the recent trilateral security agreement between Australia, the UK and the US, business links remain strong.

GPAS came about from coordination between Oxford University, Oracle, Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine (Ellison Institute) and the Tony Blair Institute (TBI) for Global Change. It helped develop the platform with the intent of providing a tool for the global community of researchers.

Dr David B Agus, GHSC Member and CEO, Ellison Institute commented, “The world’s lack of preparedness for the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted our need to work differently in order to identify solutions that are pragmatic and able to scale in the face of challenges. GPAS is a key building block in the global data infrastructure for early warning systems and global surveillance.”

Tony Blair, Executive Chairman of TBI and former UK Prime Minister added, “We know only too well that viruses do not respect borders which is why we must take a global, single-minded approach to contain this pandemic.

“This platform promises to bring together data much more rapidly, helping us to better understand and get ahead of the patterns of spread faster, so governments can make better policy decisions and mitigate the devastating impact this virus continues to inflict in their own countries and across the globe.”

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

Without philanthropy from leading technology organisations that have a global reach such as Oracle, things could be a lot worse. While there are others that have done significant things to help in the war against the virus, GPAS will enable a coordinated global approach. One that should help to avoid duplication of effort and provide a more rapid response to the virus than would have been possible before cloud technology.

However, while it is an auspicious start what will really count is whether GPAS makes a significant difference over time. It only has a chance of doing so if more organisations join in to share global knowledge.

At first glance, this platform appears to be available at no cost. However, there is a huge benefit for Oracle in the knowledge and future prospects. Especially once the platform and OCI are turned to other huge global issues that need resolving.


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