Yesterday marked the start of the Big Data in Biomedicine Conference at Stanford, and Dean Lloyd Minor, MD, was one of the first to address the audience of more than 300.
Outlining the "tsunami of data crashing into us" (including electronic patient records; DNA sequencing; and comprehensive biological data on the mechanisms of disease, treatment monitoring, clinical trials, pharmaceutical records, medical imaging and disease registries), Minor said we must now take the information we have to improve health care. And for this, he said, collaboration is key:
[Big data presents a] challenge that is so big and so complex that single individuals, or companies, or institutions - no matter how accomplished or illustrious - cannot solve it alone.
Explaining that the conference was arranged to encourage such collaboration among academic researchers and their partners in industry, he went on to describe big data's four "grand challenges:"
Extending big data studies to a global scale. Much of the biological data that has been collected so far does not include global studies of multi-ethnic populations, or studies about both men and women. We need to expand our field of study.
Faster interpretation of data. We need to increase the speed and effectiveness of analysis through the use of existing and emerging technologies.
A better grasp of the interactions. We need an understanding not just of genes and proteins in isolation, but of the complex, multi-factorial networks in which they operate.
Training the next generation. We need to prepare scientists who will follow us in the fields of medicine, statistics, informatics, and engineering to continue to seek transformative change.
Ultimately, he said, it's up to those people who "see this time as a unique opportunity," and who want to convert the massive amounts of biomedical data into "practical, usable tools that relieve suffering, preserve health, and enhance life."
As a reminder, the conference, which is being supported by the Li Ka Shing Foundation, will be webcasted today and tomorrow via the Big Data in Biomedicine website. We're also live tweeting event proceedings on the @SUMedicine Twitter feed.
Previously: Big Data in Biomedicine conference opens this week, Atul Butte discusses why big data is a big deal in biomedicine, Strength in numbers: Harnessing public gene data to answer a diverse range of research questions, Mining medical discoveries from a mountain of ones and zeroes and The data deluge: A report from Stanford Medicine magazine
Photo of Dean Minor at conference by Saul Bromberger