Microsoft-Backed Terra Research Platform Hits Preview


Terra, a new biomedical research platform-as-a-service offering, is now available as a preview on the Microsoft Azure cloud.

Microsoft announced the Terra preview in a post last week. According to Microsoft principal product managers Ilyana Rosenberg and Jer-Ming Chia and senior director Chaitanya Bangur, Terra is designed to be a centralized hub for users to share, access and collaborate on biomedical data, in theory eliminating a major obstacle to medical research: siloed information. Another challenge that's addressed by Terra is location-specific data access regulations, which can limit collaboration and data diversity.                  

"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," they wrote. "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." 

Microsoft co-developed Terra with Verily, the life sciences research arm of Google parent company Alphabet; and the Broad Insitute, a medical research organization supported by Harvard University and MIT. Microsoft positions Terra as a key component of its broader Microsoft Health Futures initiative, which aims to foster "research, incubations, and moonshots that drive cross-company strategy, partnerships, and real-world impact across healthcare and the life sciences."

With the Terra preview running on Microsoft's cloud, users can take advantage of the capabilities in Azure Data Health Services, Microsoft's data management and analysis platform designed for health care. For instance, Terra users can perform "multi-modal" analyses (i.e., analyses of data across different types and sources).

Other Azure integrations available to Terra users include, according to the announcement, "Azure Confidential Computing for data privacy, Azure Synapse for data analytics, Azure Purview for data governance, and Azure ML for machine learning." Single sign-on, enabled via Azure Active Directory, is also supported.   

"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," wrote Rosenberg, Chia and Bangur. "Analyses are performed within a security perimeter that enables data-access and data-use policies and compliance standards to be met."

Those interested in the Terra on Azure preview can request access via this page. More information is available in this Terra blog.

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.

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