In The Era Of Precision Medicine, Big Data Rules

precision Medicine And Big Data

Precision medicine is an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person. While many advancements in precision medicine have been made, the practice is not currently in use for most diseases.

By using big data to scan large population control groups, precision medicine offers an unparalleled and unique geo/cultural/genetic snapshot that tells a more compelling story regarding certain key medical correlations that otherwise, might have continued to go unnoticed, like so many missed diagnoses experienced today. Doctors of tomorrow will be affluent in big data, as medicine has shifted focus to further enhance the accuracy of medical outcomes.

So what do you get when you cross a physician with a cloud computing super-nerd?

In this YouTube clip, experts in genomics discuss how cloud computing is accelerating the development of this medical data ‘big bang’ known as human genome sequencing, and improved technologies for biomedical analysis.

This Silicon Valley – esque approach to medicine is moving from the lab to the clinic, quickly  becoming a reality. Vendors like Amazon Web Services are playing a role in delivering this important new approach to treatment to patients, signifying a shift that could prove to be the perfect-fit specialty for a talented medical student with the right blend of computer geek.

In a recent keynote on the future of big data and the potential for ‘garage biotech’, precision medicine thought leader Atul Butte snapped his audience awake with this retort:

“I think it’s safe to say that in 100 years medicine will be more precise. Now this makes medical doctors like me very nervous because when we enter an era called Precision Medicine, it means by definition the last thing we were doing was NOT Precision Medicine!” Atul Butte, MD, PhD, UCSF

Big data is opening doors for precision medicine

Libraries – remember that place your older brothers and sisters used to talk about, where you would check out books with pages… yeah well now external hard drives and thumb drives hold enough data to fill thousands of libraries. Fortunately the millennial culture lives by an unspoken oath of “must share”, because open and crowd sourced data is the key to precision medicine, continues Dr. Butte adding context to the topic:

“Open data is the most amazing public commodity in the world! Think about public commodities, like oil on public land.  If I take this barrel of oil, you can’t have it! If I take this water, you can’t have it. But if I take this data, you CAN have it TOO! And I might make a diagnostic with it and you might make a therapeutic with it. Think how amazing data is, in fact, I think data is the most amazing export from the Western World.” Atul Butte, MD, PhD, UCSF

By splicing open data accessible through cloud computing, precision medicine doctors of the future will be able to accelerate how we recognize and treat disease. However much our current diagnostic methods have improved since medical practices of 100 years ago, it’s safe to say it won’t take another 100 years before we can laugh at the practices of today.

Joseph Bryant
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