With the Big Data Science Innovation Summit 1 happening next month here in San Diego, we invited Dr. Heather Buschman to share current views on Big Data in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.
Medical research and healthcare are well poised to reap the benefits of Big Data—the vast amounts of information generated by recent advances in medical technologies such as high-content screening, next-gen DNA sequencing, and wireless health monitoring. Examples of biomedical Big Data projects include the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Genome Atlas, the National Human Genome Research Institute’s Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE), and the NIH Common Fund’s Human Microbiome Project. These projects and others have been collecting and organizing large datasets for years. Why? Here are three ways Big Data could benefit the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries:
1. Big Data could improve our understanding of human health and disease
Big Data may help researchers build more predictive models of biological processes2. These data-driven systems could help illuminate molecular networks, pathways, and interactions—and shed light on how they break down before and during pathological conditions.
2. Big Data could help drive the development of new diagnostics and therapeutics
Molecular and clinical data could be used in predictive models of disease to screen drug-like molecules for their likely efficacy and safety before testing them in costly assays and animal models. Later, thanks to all the data applied up front, clinical trials could target only the patient populations most likely to benefit, based on their genetic information, thus allowing for shorter trials that require fewer patients3.
3. Big Data could be used to track current therapeutics and other products
Once a product is on the market, Big Data takes the form of internet search data, social media commentary, electronic medical records, and wireless monitoring. If properly collected, meta-tagged, organized, and analyzed, all of this information could help researchers more accurately measure safety and efficacy and target marketing. What’s more, collecting molecular and clinical on patients using approved therapeutics allows researchers to look for opportunities to repurpose those therapies for other applications. What biomedical advances from Big Data are YOU beginning to see or most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below. Then check back next week for part 2 in this series: 3 Bottlenecks Keeping Big Data from Big Results.
- McKinsey & Company. Pharma’s Great Hope: Big Data. Forbes. June 25, 2012.
- McKinsey & Company. How big data can revolutionize pharmaceutical R&D. April 2013.