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Aarhus University and the Central Denmark Region set up a joint centre for genome data

The use of human genomes in research and patient treatment requires a supercomputer in order to be able to handle the analysis and storage of the enormous amounts of data. The Central Denmark Region and Aarhus University are now establishing a joint genome data centre.

The mapping of genes and the use of knowledge of the human genome was taken into use in research and treatment of serious diseases such as cancer long ago. Genetic analyses and genetic profiles are today increasingly used in tailored personal diagnosis and treatment. Specifically, this means that doctors are more often able to offer treatment based on the individual patient's unique genome. This development requires access to a supercomputer that is able to handle the huge amount of data.

The steadily increasing information about genomes needs to be handled securely and utilised in the best possible way for the benefit of the patients. Aarhus University and The Central Denmark Region are therefore now joining forces and establishing a joint centre for the analysis of the human genome.

"Collaboration between AU and AUH already provides a strong starting point, which we will now build on. There is a strong international prioritisation of the area, and the university and the region are now gearing up to participate as partners in the development and use of the latest information technology," says Chairman of the Regional Council, Bent Hansen.

Supercomputer contributing to research

The newly established genome data centre is based at iSEQ, The Centre for ISequencing, which has functioned as an interdisciplinary centre at Aarhus University since 2012. It is here that the supercomputer dedicated to genomic analysis is located. The supercomputer is one of Denmark's largest and has numerous users from Denmark and from leading universities abroad. 

The analyses are used in research contexts to discover new prevention and treatment options. In the hospital, genomic analyses are used in screening and diagnosis, and to tailor individual patient treatment.

"We have already begun with precise personal medicine, based on insight into genes. We can now find people with increased risk of disease who need to be screened for diseases. We can select treatments more precisely for the individual's disease and get a better effect and fewer side effects. This begun in the cancer field, which is where it is most widespread, but it is becoming increasingly popular in many other areas, such as immune deficiencies, diabetes and heart disease," says Professor, MD, Torben Ørntoft, who is head of the Department of Molecular Medicine at Aarhus University Hospital.

Economies of scale in a joint centre

A joint genome data centre spanning the region and the university has obvious economies of scale, such as the optimisation of analysis capacity. So says Professor Anders Børglum, who will be the day-to-day manager of the new genome data centre. 

"We have succeeded in integrating expertise from several of the university’s different fields at the iSEQ Centre. This integration is absolutely necessary in order to analyse the complex and massive amounts of data that can improve and target treatment and prevention of diseases. With the expansion in a joint centre together with The Central Denmark Region, we will have significantly increased capacity and – not least – a very important strengthening of the patient-centred aspects of personal medicine," says Anders Børglum.

The Central Denmark Region and Aarhus University already enjoy close cooperative relations when it comes to research-based treatment in the healthcare sector. According to the Dean of Aarhus University, Brian Bech Nielsen, a joint genome data centre, in which the analysis capacity will be shared divided between the organisations, will add an extra dimension to this partnership.

"This is a good example of how the university and the region have a common focus on knowledge, health and welfare for the benefit of the patients. A joint genome data centre will be a platform for research and education, and it will contribute to establishing competences within the development of personal medicine," says Brian Bech Nielsen.


  • The new genome data centre will be based at the Centre for Integrative Sequencing, iSEQ, which was established by Aarhus University in 2012.
  • The genome data centre is a network of highly-powerful computers that are able to exchange 320 GB of data per second and have storage space equivalent to 7,000 normal computer hard disks.
  • The system uses DKK 750,000 of electricity annually for calculations, operation and cooling.
  • The supercomputer is secured against theft and breakdowns. Data security is absolutely top-class with multiple layers of approvals, encryption of data transfer and protection against data download from the system without special approval.
  • Construction costs amounted to DKK 15 million. The need for continuous updating and expansion is expected to cost DKK 2-4 million annually, in line with the increase in the required storage capacity.

Further information

Professor, Director of the joint genome data centre, Anders Børglum 
Aarhus University, Department of Biomedicine
Tel. (+45) 8716 7768
Mobil: (+45) 6020 2720
Email: anders@biomed.au.dk

Professor, MD Torben Ørntoft
Aarhus University, Department of Clinical Medicine and
Aarhus University Hospital, Department of Molecular Medicine
Tel. (+45) 7845 5300
Mobil: (+45) 2819 2680
Email: orntoft@clin.au.dk

Chairman of the Central Denmark Regional Council, Bent Hansen
Tel. (+45) 7841 0010
Mobil: (+45) 4031 3707
Email: bent.hansen@rr.rm.dk