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Peter Amstutz, 02/12/2014 02:47 PM


In 2006 researchers at Dr. George Church's Lab at Harvard Medical School began work on the Personal Genome Project. The PGP collects and publishes whole genome sequencing, environmental, and trait data from individuals who openly consented to have their data shared on the internet under an IRB approved study. The vision was to publish 100,000 genomes at the Harvard project and help dozens of other project launch around the world. From the beginning, the team envisioned having data stored in data centers around the world that would need to be federated and shared.

Alexander Wait Zaranek PhD became Director of Informatics for the project and began developing an informatics platform that could accomplish the goals of the PGP leveraging the best thinking from Google and other organizations work with petabyte and exabyte scale data set distributed across data centers.

Sasha worked with Tom Clegg and Ward Vandewege to design the system, build a prototype, and present a paper describing the approach at the 2008 USENIX Annual Technical Conference: Free Factories: Unified Infrastructure for Data Intensive Web Services.

One of the Harvard PGP Clusters

Sasha, Tom, Ward and other engineers have continued to build on the prototype presented in the paper. Free Factories currently runs two clusters at Harvard Medical School that power the PGP. Together these clusters provide storage and computational resources for 300TB of data.

In 2010, Sasha, Tom, Ward along with Zen Chu and Dr. Joe Thakuria started a company, Clinical Future, to drive broader adoption of the technology they had developed for the PGP.

During 2012 the team began re-working the API, evaluating requirements across other labs, and designing the next generation of the system. In 2013 Free Factories was renamed "Arvados", and the new open source project was officially announced to at Bio-IT World on April 11, 2013.

In December 2013, the company sponsoring Arvados development was renamed from "Clinical Future" to "Curoverse".

Where is the name from?

Arvados is a combination of "Arvada III", the planet from Star Trek: Next Generation where Dr. Beverly Crusher was inspired to become a doctor, and "Orvos" the Hungarian word for doctor, which was a code name we used for while.

Updated by Peter Amstutz over 10 years ago · 19 revisions