Taking COVID in STRIDES: The National Center for Biotechnology Information makes coronavirus genomic data available on AWS
Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) announced the creation of the Coronavirus Genome Sequence Dataset to support COVID-19 research. The dataset is hosted by the AWS Open Data Sponsorship Program and accessible on the Registry of Open Data on AWS, providing researchers quick and easy access to coronavirus sequence data at no cost for use in their COVID-19 research.
Centralizing coronavirus data in the cloud
The Coronavirus Genomic Sequence Dataset is a focused set of researcher-submitted next-generation sequence data (original file format) as well as SRA-processed sequences (ETL file format) hosted by NCBI at the National Library of Medicine (NLM). This dataset is part of the NIH Science and Technology Research Infrastructure for Discovery, Experimentation, and Sustainability (STRIDES) Initiative—a collaboration between AWS and the NIH to explore the cloud as a sustainable and scalable solution for researchers’ storage and compute needs. By leveraging the STRIDES Initiative, NIH and NIH-funded institutions can begin to create a robust, interconnected community that breaks down silos related to generating, analyzing, and sharing research data. NIH-funded researchers with an active NIH award can take advantage of the STRIDES Initiative for their NIH-funded research projects.
Why every coronavirus genome matters
Coronavirus genomic sequence data is important to understanding and responding to the current pandemic and future pandemics. For example, genetic sequence differences between SARS-CoV-2 strains isolated from different individuals might shed a light on how quickly the virus is evolving and what impacts it might have on symptom severity and disease progression (although recent studies indicate that the genetics of the individual also plays a role in how they react to a COVID-19 infection).
Comparing the viral sequence isolated from patients in different geographic regions could also help make diagnostic testing for COVID-19 more accurate. In addition, identifying genetic differences between SARS-CoV-2 and other betacoronaviridae provides insights into how SARS-CoV-2 affects the host biology. For example, key differences in the COVID-19 genome likely contribute to COVID-19’s unique affinity for a specific cell surface receptor-ACE2, using it as its gateway into lung cells.
“Containing COVID-19 outbreaks and preparing for future pandemics will require a deep understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 genome in the context of other COVID-19 patients and the broader Coronaviridae family,” said Ryan Layer, assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder’s BioFrontiers Institute. “The NCBI Coronavirus Genome Sequence Dataset makes over a decade of viral genome data publicly accessible for researchers, empowering anyone in the research community to participate in the pandemic response.”
Explore the NCBI Coronavirus Genomic Sequence Dataset
The dataset is publicly accessible and divided into two buckets. The first bucket contains raw and normalized files categorized by SRA accession code (s3://sra-pub-sars-cov2). Not sure what accessions you are looking for? A second bucket containing accession metadata (s3://sra-pub-sars-cov2-metadata-us-east-1), is in progress, soon to be queryable with Amazon Athena.
Below, we provide steps to access the dataset directly from Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) using the Amazon Command Line Interface (CLI). If you do not have the AWS CLI set up yet, follow these instructions.
Once you have the AWS CLI downloaded, you can list bucket contents using the
aws s3 ls s3://sra-pub-sars-cov2 --no-sign-request
PRE run/ #these are researcher-submitted accessions
PRE sra-src/ #these are SRA-normalized accessions
At the highest level, this bucket is organized into researcher-submitted (
run/ ) and normalized (
sra-src/) data. If you dive into the
src/ folder, you’ll see additional folders organized by accession code.
aws s3 ls s3://sra-pub-sars-cov2/sra-src/ --no-sign-request
Listing the contents of each accession folder reveals the raw data available.
aws s3 ls s3://sra-pub-sars-cov2/sra-src/SRR9967744/ --human-readable --no-sign-request
2020-05-29 15:19:13 20.3 MiB cs062.R1.fastq.gz
2020-05-29 15:19:10 21.6 MiB cs062.R2.fastq.gz
Learn more about how AWS is supporting research
Once you are comfortable navigating this dataset, it’s time to dive deeper into the science. Visit Genomics on AWS for secondary and tertiary genomic analysis solutions.
For more information on how AWS helps solve complex research workloads and enables scientific research, see the AWS Research and Technical Computing webpage.
Request more information about the NIH STRIDES Initiative.