Biomedical Research Platform Terra Now Available on Microsoft Azure

We stand at the threshold of a new era of precision medicine, where health and life sciences data hold the potential to dramatically propel and expand our understanding and treatment of human disease. One of the tools that we believe will help to enable precision medicine is Terra, the secure biomedical research platform co-developed by Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Microsoft, and Verily. Today, we are excited to share that Terra is available for preview on Microsoft Azure.

Starting today, any researcher can bring their data, access publicly available datasets, run analyses, and collaborate with others on Terra using Microsoft Azure. Learn more about accessing Terra and exploring its capabilities on the Terra blog.

By joining forces on Terra, the Broad Institute, Microsoft, and Verily are accelerating the next generation of collaborative biomedical research to positively impact health outcomes now and in the future. Terra’s cloud-based platform offers a secure, centralized location for biomedical research, connecting researchers to each other and to the datasets and tools they need to collaborate effectively, advance their work, and achieve scientific breakthroughs. Terra on Azure will also provide valuable support for enterprise organizations across industries. 

Terra on Azure is built to be enterprise-ready and natively supports single sign-on (SSO) with Azure Active Directory. Operating as platform as a service (PaaS), Terra deploys resources into an end-user’s Azure tenant, allowing customers to apply their Enterprise Agreements to their use of Terra and giving them more control over the cloud resources running in their environment as well as the different types of tools and data they can use within their Terra workspace.

Figure 1: Terra brings together components of the Microsoft Genomics and healthcare ecosystems to offer optimized, secure, and collaborative biomedical research.

At Microsoft, with our focus on standards-driven data interoperability, we are building seamless connections between Terra and Azure Health Data Services to enable multi-modal data analysis—across clinical, genomics, imaging, and other modes—and to accelerate precision medicine research, discovery, development, and delivery. Terra on Azure can connect to other Azure services, allowing customers to draw on Azure innovations that are beneficial to biomedical analysis, such as those in Azure Confidential Computing for data privacy, Azure Synapse for data analytics, Azure Purview for data governance, and Azure ML for machine learning. 

How does the biomedical research community benefit from Terra?

Data and partnerships form the bedrock of biomedical research, but researchers often face significant challenges on the path to effective collaboration. Part of the challenge for data scientists and researchers is accessing large and diverse sample sizes. Although the volume and availability of data is increasing, silos are growing stronger as data becomes more globally distributed. Different regions and organizations have their own unique data access policies, making access to data nearly impossible and collaboration a sometimes daunting challenge.

Terra powers research collaborations within and across organizational boundaries by giving researchers and data stewards new tools and capabilities to help them overcome those challenges and achieve their goals. As a biomedical research platform, Terra provides a foundation for data stewards to manage dataset access and use policies across the research lifecycle, and it enables researchers to access, build, and analyze larger datasets much faster.

Figure 2: Terra is built to support researchers and data custodians.

Through Terra on Azure, researchers can operate in secure environments purpose-built for health and life sciences; retrieve and examine public, controlled-access, and private data; reproduce analyses; and share hypotheses and analysis results. Analyses are performed within a security perimeter that enables data-access and data-use policies and compliance standards to be met.

How does Terra on Azure advance Health Futures’ goals?

Microsoft Health Futures is focused on empowering every person on the planet to live healthier lives and create a healthier future. We are responsible for research, incubations, and moonshots that drive cross-company strategy to support that goal. We believe the future of medicine is data-driven, predictive, and precise. Yet one of the major barriers to scientific discovery is access to data—at scale, longitudinally, and in multiple modalities.

Innovation within the life sciences is a core Health Futures priority, and we partner with leading organizations to advance and build infrastructure for emerging precision health modalities, including genomics, immunomics, and beyond. The Terra collaboration is a key piece of this broader priority and sets the foundation to scale real-world impact through our customers, partners, and the life sciences ecosystem.

It is an honor to partner with the Broad Institute and Verily to help researchers around the world understand and treat our toughest human diseases. Terra is a powerful platform that will enhance biomedical research collaboration and scientific exploration for the betterment of humankind.

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