Much has been written on Scope about the annual Big Data in Biomedicine conference, held here last week. My colleague Bruce Goldman was on the scene all three days, and he offers more highlights from the event in an online story.
Noting how Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, encouraged the audience “to rise to the challenge of harnessing computer technology, biomedical informatics and social media – collectively known as big data – to benefit clinical practice,” Goldman goes on to describe the FDA’s work in this area:
“If you eat a salad, you’re pretty much a global citizen,” said [Taha Kass-Hout, MD, chief health informatics officer at the Food and Drug Administration], noting that the ingredients of a typical salad may travel halfway around the world to get to our table. Unfortunately, the well-traveled salad can pick up a host of microbial free-riders en route. Over the last year the FDA has assembled a publicly accessible database holding the genomic sequences of more than 5,000 food-poisoning culprits such as Salmonella and listeria, he said.
In a new initiative, the FDA has been monitoring social media to enhance its surveillance capabilities. “Maybe we’ll find that we can detect outbreaks earlier that way,” he said. It may also be possible, using these methods, to draw inferences about beneficial or adverse effects of drugs prescribed for indications other than the ones for which they’ve been specifically approved. This could expedite new uses for existing drugs.
Previously: Discussing access and transparency of big data in government, U.S. Chief Technology Officer kicks off Big Data in Biomedicine, Euan Ashley discusses harnessing big data to drive innovation for a healthier world and Big laughs at Stanford’s Big Data in Biomedicine Conference
Photo of Kass-Hout by Saul Bromberger