Autism Speaks and Autism Speaks Canada Support Launch of the Canadian Platform for Genomics and Precision Health

April 17, 2023

Toronto, Ontario — Today, a Canadian consortium including Autism Speaks and Autism Speaks Canada is announcing the launch of a new project to expand the development of a software platform to enable federated, AI-powered insights across networks of genomics and health data. The Canadian Platform for Genomics & Precision Health (CP4GPH) is a $14.5M initiative co-funded by Digital that brings together domain experts with a shared vision to deliver better outcomes for Canadians by making it easier to connect and analyze exponentially growing volumes of distributed genomics and health data. The project builds upon the multi-award-winning software platform developed by its partners as part of previous collaborations.

In order to make insights that will transform care, scientists and decision makers need data. These datasets are currently siloed between many different institutional, regional, and national systems, making it impossible to leverage their collective power to make discoveries. The traditional approach of centralized “data sharing” is not suitable because uploading copies of large and sensitive information to one datacenter is not fast, efficient, scalable, secure, or compliant, and does not empower individuals and organizations to retain control of their data, measure impact, or enforce attribution.

The solution being developed by the CP4GPH directly addresses this problem. It enables privacy-preserving “federated insights”, where questions can be answered by analyzing distributed datasets without moving them. All data remains in place and so, instead of “moving data to the question” this new approach “moves questions to the data”. This is faster, more efficient, secure, scalable, and compliant, while allowing individuals and organizations to retain control of their data, measure impact, and automate attribution.

With this new platform, health data stewards can easily connect datasets into distributed networks and grant permissions for data consumers to be able to derive privacy-preserving federated insights across them. The system is being built in compliance with FAIR principles, open standards (e.g. GA4GH, FHIR), international privacy regulations (e.g. PIPEDA, HIPAA, GDPR), and is deployable within commercial cloud and HPC environments. The platform will be used to create and grow provincial, national, and international networks in neuroscience, oncology, rare disease, infectious disease, health care, and agriculture.

“Autism Speaks is excited to be part of this impressive consortium and to continue our work with DNAstack to develop federated systems that can help to responsibly share autism data,” said Dean Hartley, Senior Director of Genetic Discovery & Translational at Autism Speaks. “Because autism is complex and diverse, there is a pressing need to bring together a wide variety of data sources to understand autism and how best to serve the many needs of the autism community. This unique, collective thinking has the ability to deliver individualized care, guide health decisions for autistic individuals and families and serve as a driver for discovering new, effective therapies.”

“Autism Speaks Canada is honoured to be part of this collaborative work, bringing together data sources that will lead us to a better understanding of autism,” said Jill Farber, Executive Director, Autism Speaks Canada. “Through our joint efforts, we look forward to moving one step closer to delivering personalized care for the needs of autistic Canadians and autistic people everywhere.”

This initiative combines world-leading expertise in software engineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, genome sequencing, research, patient advocacy, health care, public health, diagnostics, therapeutics, standards, and policy. Project partners include Autism Speaks, Autism Speaks Canada, Cyclica, DNAstack, Genome Canada, Hoffmann-La Roche Limited (Roche Canada), Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital,, McGill University, PacBio, the Public Health Agency of Canada, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), and University of New Brunswick, advised by Genome Alberta, Genome Atlantic, Genome BC, Genome Prairie, Génome Québec, Global Alliance for Genomics & Health (GA4GH), and Ontario Genomics.

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About Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks is dedicated to creating an inclusive world for all individuals with autism throughout their lifespan. We do this through advocacy, services, supports, research and innovation, and advances in care for autistic individuals and their families. To find resources, join an event or make a donation, go to Learn more by following @AutismSpeaks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

About Autism Speaks Canada

Autism Speaks Canada is dedicated to enhancing lives today and accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow by supporting and working with community partners; enhancing resources and services; increasing understanding, acceptance and inclusion of people with autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. To find resources, join an event or make a donation, go to Learn more by following @AutismSpeaksCanada on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

About Digital

Ahead of the curve starts here. Digital grows Canadian businesses and anchor enterprises through the development, adoption and deployment of Canadian-made digital technologies that keep Canadians healthy, address climate change and drive economic productivity. Through a powerful model that combines cross-sector collaboration, IP creation, digital talent development and results-based co-investment, we unlock the potential of Canadian industry to lead and succeed in the digital world.