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Researchers from the University of Oxford are collaborating in a project that will enable registered researchers from across the world to analyse population-scale genomic and biomolecular data, using the Common Infrastructure for National Cohorts in Europe, Canada and Africa (CINECA).

CINECA, which launches today, is an international project led by EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI). Its federated cloud-based network will make accessible a virtual cohort of data from 1.4 million individuals to approved researchers around the world.


If we are to build on the promise of genomic medicine, it is vital that we become more adept at bringing together clinical and genetic data sets from large samples from across the globe. - Professor Mark McCarthy


Oxford University’s contribution is led by Professor Mark McCarthy (who is based in the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, and the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics), who said: “CINECA will play an important role in realising this objective, allowing researchers to understand the genetic and non-genetic causes of disease in diverse populations, and to ensure that the translation of that research is as relevant in Nairobi and Durban, as it is in Vancouver and London”.


Rapid access to clinical research data allows scientists to share their findings and reduce the need to duplicate costly studies. This accelerates research and helps advance benefits to patients through the responsible sharing of genetic, phenotypic and life-style data on an unprecedented scale.

Comprised of 18 partner organisations across three continents, CINECA will make use of data from 11 large cohorts selected to provide a diverse representation of studies in rare disease, common disease and national cohorts.

Personalised Medicine

Within the next five years, it is predicted that the majority of human genome sequences will be generated through national-scale healthcare initiatives. Federated analysis tools, such as those within the CINECA initiative, will support efforts to identify the best treatments for individual patients. Increasingly, we anticipate that personalised medicine programmes worldwide will be able to safely and efficiently access such information in the “cloud”.  

"By enabling access to genetic data from diverse human populations, CINECA will support the development of treatments tailored to each individual patient's genetic profile, the ultimate goal of personalised medicine," says Thomas Keane, Team Leader at EMBL-EBI. “Clinicians need to be able to compare a patient’s genome to a large set of healthy people and sick people, in order to understand the underlying genetics of the patient. And by “large”, we mean hundreds of thousands or even millions of other people.”

Tools for discovery

A key aim of CINECA is to develop tools which allow for rapid data discovery, secure access and authorisation within the cloud. Such tools will enable researchers to quickly discover data which are relevant to ongoing research projects, without duplicating studies. This raises the potential for novel discoveries into causes of rare and common disease such as cancer and diabetes.

“The project provides an avenue for us to align with international best practices, and contribute to these from an African and resource-limited perspective,” says Nicola Mulder, Head of Computational Biology at University of Cape Town and Principal Investigator of H3ABioNet (a Pan African bioinformatics network for H3Africa). “At the same time as contributing our own expertise in working with diverse African genetic data, we hope to gain experience in new technologies for data sharing and clinical implementations.”

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 825775.

Read more at EMBL-EBI website.

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