Researchers at the School of Medicine and Oxford University are currently developing ways to mine the vast amounts of biomedical data housed in public databases to speed the discovery of new drugs, improve patient care and reduce health-care costs.
Now, the Li Ka Shing Foundation has provided a $3 million planning grant to Stanford's medical school to further this collaborative effort and fund the big data initiative. As my colleague Ruthann Richter explains in a release, the initiative aims to "solve large-number problems at a global scale to improve health worldwide." She writes:
By assembling data on large populations, scientists can discern patterns that would not otherwise be apparent by studying an individual’s genes. For instance, they can determine whether a particular genetic variant is significant or just an artifact. And they can better determine what drugs are likely to have an impact on the activities of a particular gene.
Based on such findings, scientists aim to develop new medications and low-cost therapies. They also plan to develop a real-time mobile application with the ability to collect biometric and other health data, such as heart rate and blood pressure for patients with cardiovascular disease, to actively monitor patients recovering from surgery or to prevent an adverse health event from occurring. The scientists ultimately will combine this data with other health metrics, such as genomic-sequencing data and electronic medical records, and use bioinformatics analysis to predict which patients are at higher risk for certain diseases and which ones could benefit from earlier intervention.
The grant includes funding for the recruitment of new faculty working in the area of big data, a scholars program to train PhD students and postdoctoral scholars at both institutions, and the upcoming Big Data in Biomedicine conference.
Last year, some 300 leading figures from academia, industry, government and philanthropic foundations gathered at Stanford for the three-day conference, and more than 2,700 people logged in to the live stream. This year's event will be held May 21-23.
Previously: Big data = big finds: Clinical trial for deadly lung cancer launched by Stanford study, Big laughs at Stanford’s Big Data in Biomedicine Conference and A call to use the “tsunami of biomedical data” to preserve life and enhance health
Photo from last year's Big Data in Biomedicine conference by Saul Bromberger