The cohort size required in epidemiological imaging genetics studies often mandates the pooling of data from multiple hospitals. Patient data, however, is subject to strict privacy protection regimes, and physical data storage may be legally restricted to a hospital network. To enable biomarker discovery, fast data access and interactive data exploration must be combined with high-performance computing resources, while respecting privacy regulations. We present a system using fast and inherently secure light-paths to access distributed data, thereby obviating the need for a central data repository. A secure private cloud computing framework facilitates interactive, computationally intensive exploration of this geographically distributed, privacy sensitive data. As a proof of concept, MRI brain imaging data hosted at two remote sites were processed in response to a user command at a third site. The system was able to automatically start virtual machines, run a selected processing pipeline and write results to a user accessible database, while keeping data locally stored in the hospitals. Individual tasks took approximately 50% longer compared to a locally hosted blade server but the cloud infrastructure reduced the total elapsed time by a factor of 40 using 70 virtual machines in the cloud. We demonstrated that the combination light-path and private cloud is a viable means of building an analysis infrastructure for secure data analysis. The system requires further work in the areas of error handling, load balancing and secure support of multiple users.