TAIPEI, TAIWAN, May. 31, 2021 – One of the biggest challenges that faces the field of precision medicine is the need to obtain genomic information of entire groups of population. Within Taiwan for example, the majority of people are ethnically Han Chinese, however, up until recently, there was virtually no genomic data saved on Han Chinese people or the health risks that are specific to that ethnicity genetically. One of the most important discoveries within the field of precision medicine is that many rare diseases and cancers are caused by very specific mutations within the genetic code of an individual and are often hereditary. As such, in order for precision medicine to be equipped to diagnose and treat those ailments, there needs to be readily available access to genetic data that has been sequenced. Fortunately there are such places, and they are called biobanks. Biobanks are facilities that store genetic data for use in research and precision medicine.
The Taiwan Biobank and Genetic Research
We here at WASAI are a company that was proudly started and is based in Taiwan. We have had the privilege of both witnessing and being a part of the fantastic work being done in the field of genomics here at home. The first biobank in Taiwan was opened in 2012; the Taiwan Biobank (TWB). As mentioned previously, biobanks are integral to the process of genomic research and precision medicine. Throughout the course of the last two decades in which genomics has seen its rise, biobanks have been set up in order to maintain a repository of genetic data on specific ethnic backgrounds. TWB specializes in Han Chinese ancestry and stands as one of the most important biobanks specializing in that ethnicity. TWB stores the data of 200,000 Han Chinese participants. The genetic data stored in TWB has proven invaluable to Taiwanese genomics, and has been used in various studies on Han Chinese genetic mutations and variations.
There are two studies done very recently that are well worth bringing attention to. In 2020, Jimmy Juang and his team set out to chart out Han Chinese whole genome sequence and genetic variants here in Taiwan. As the field is relatively young, there are gaps in the collective knowledge of researchers into specific races and their unique differences. At the time of Juang’s study, there were no existing samples of Han Chinese WGS. With their research, Juang’s team sequenced 997 Han Chinese genomes and discovered 26.7 million variants that were used to identify Han Chinese specific health risks. The results of genomic sequencing is a pivotal component of modern precision medicine because identifying genetic variations that cause diseases allows for doctors to target those variations directly.
The second study was conducted in February 2021, by Chun-Yu Wei and his team. Their study utilized whole genome sequencing on data taken from participants who have their data stored in TWB. Their findings discovered numerous important genetic dispositions that affect ethnically Han Chinese people such as their risk for diseases, cancer and even genetic disposition to drug resistance. These findings are important because they provide so much insight and data for precision medicine. However, these studies also underline another facet of genomics as a field that is important to discuss, which is the field of bioinformatics.
WASAI and Bioinformatics: Bridging two Fields
We here at WASAI specialize in two heavily related fields; big data and bioinformatics. As such, this is a topic that we both find interesting to share with you, the reader, but it is also foundational to the core of what this company is. It is what we are passionate about because we have seen the results of what bioinformatics is doing to the field of genomics with its much needed acceleration of processing genetic data. Most importantly, we have seen and have been proud to be a part of the creative solutions to the big data problem. Our own product, WASAI Lightning, combines the Genome Analysis Toolkit with FPGA technology. This allows for speeds that provide 11 times the speed up of whole genome analysis at 30x depth. FPGA technology has immense power that is combined with its unparalleled ability to be infinitely reconfigured to meet the needs of researchers. These are advancements that keep the field of genomics moving forward. Without bioinformatics, the field of genomics would be stuck in stasis.
The field of genomics is in many ways a community effort. Biobanks are critical in order for research and precision medicine to function and research and precision medicine need bioinformatics in order to find results. Bioinformatics is a field that specializes in creating solutions for the storage, analysis and diffusion of genetic data, which at its core is what makes research and precision medicine possible. Seeing the groundbreaking work being done here in Taiwan is inspirational. We all have a part to play in this field. We are proud to be able to call attention to the advancements being done here in the field and are passionate about doing our best to aid in this global effort.
About WASAI Technology Inc.
WASAI Technology's mission is to deliver acceleration technologies of High-Performance Data Analysis (HPDA) in future data centers for targeted vertical applications with massive volumes and high velocities of scientific data. To strengthen and advance scientific discovery and technological research via big data-intensive acceleration in high-performance computing, WASAI Technology aims to improve commercialization and commoditization of scientific and technological applications.