“Closed beta” of hotly anticipated PrecisionFDA platform released ahead of full beta launch in December.

The US Food and Drug Administration has unveiled a “closed beta” version of their open source cloud platform. PrecisionFDA will act as a community platform where users can share their NGS datasets and benchmark bioinformatic approaches.

At a public workshop last week Chief Informatics Officer Taha Kass-Hout explained that the platform aimed to be an environment where “NGS test developers, bioinformaticians, standards developing bodies, and regulatory experts can collaboratively advance the regulatory science on genomics tests and software.”

In it’s current form, potential users must request access through the PrecisionFDA website, until December 15 when the next beta release is set to happen. Any group or individual with something to contribute to the platform, such as source code, data or even user feedback, can request access. Kass-Hout noted that initially the focus would be on enabling users to compare data and pipelines against a reference set or data from the PrecisionFDA community. 

“It’s a sandbox,” he explained. “It’s a place where community can come and work toward advancement of regulatory science for this really important work.”

“Right now, this is a science tool to be messed around with, contributed to with notes and experiments,” added Elizabeth Mansfield, director of personalized medicine at FDA’s Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, said at the workshop. “It’s not a regulatory tool right now … Right now, it’s just for play.”

PrecisionFDA was announced as part of the FDA’s response to the White House’s Precision Medicine Initiative. In August this year the agency awarded DNAnexus an $849,000 research and development contract to design the infrastructure for the platform.

“When this gets up and running, the FDA will be running the most advanced bioinformatics platform in the world,” said Richard Daly, CEO of DNAnexus.

Following the beta phases, the platform is expected to roll out publicly in March 2016. 

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