Big Data In Biomedicine: Precision Medicine, Precision Health, And Innovative Technologies

Enakshi Singh

The Stanford School of Medicine has been hosting the Big Data in Biomedicine conference for the last three years. This year’s conference, themed “Enabling Precision Health,” included an impressive list of speakers representing academia, industry, and government. The two-day conference included enlightening conversations covering a broad spectrum of topics including genomics, cancer, statistics, machine learning, and learning health systems.

The energy and excitement of this year’s event were unlike any previous events. It’s clear that researchers and care providers are closer than ever in integrating the latest technological advances to routine clinical practice.

My speaker picks for this year’s conference included:

  • Claudia Williams, senior advisor, health technology and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Kathy Hudson, deputy director for science, outreach and policy, National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Robert Califf, MD. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), commissioner of food & drugs

Both Williams and Hudson discussed the latest updates on the nation’s Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI). The NIH has been working very hard to build a national research cohort of over one million U.S. volunteers, which broadly reflect the diversity of the United States. Anyone can sign up to be a part of the program, and healthcare provider organizations are invited to recruit participants.

Hudson estimated that it would take approximately 3-4 years to reach one million volunteers. Participants will not only submit their data, but will also continuously interact with the NIH as a key component of the PMI. Individual volunteers can consent to how their data is used for research and receive regular updates on any findings discovered using their profile. By December of this year, the NIH expects to have the cohort program launched nationwide, with the necessary infrastructure in place and approximately 79,000 volunteers signed up (including Hudson’s own mom).

Califf discussed precisionFDA, a platform for enabling the regulatory science needed to advance next-generation technologies that enable precision medicine. Although the platform is currently in beta testing, researchers can test, pilot, and validate bioinformatics tools to process genomic data collected from the next-generation sequencing technology.

A theme that was repeated throughout the event was data sharing and federation. To truly bring precision medicine to reality, we must enable quick and easy data sharing across networks of research institutes, healthcare provider organizations, and all other stakeholders. By enabling such a health network, clinical studies and trials can be conducted more effectively, data-driven or evidence-based medicine can become a standard practice, and researchers can learn more about the interplay between health and genomics (and other -omics).

Dr. Werner Eberhardt, general manager of Connected Health at SAP, gave a talk during the “Learning Health Systems” section. He outlined a strategy and vision that can help save lives by bringing together an ecosystem of partners – including researchers and healthcare organizations – to accelerate the development of patient-centered solutions.

Dr. Eberhardt highlighted three initiatives that are following this approach:

  • Stanford Medicine: This workflow and analytics support tool provides real-time interactive access to genomic data, wearable device data, and clinical data from electronic medical records. Currently in the prototype phase, the application supports the clinical workflow by identifying pathogenic genetic variants that contribute to a patient’s clinical symptoms or diagnoses.
  • CancerLinQ: A subsidiary of American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) will allow cancer care providers to improve the quality and value of care. Very soon, they will have access to millions of cancer patient medical records – allowing them to uncover patterns and trends and measure care against that of their peers and recommended guidelines. A total of 58 practices have joined CancerLinQ and 750,000 patient records are in CancerLinQ.
  • National Center for Tumor Diseases: Clinical researchers can visualize and analyze patient data in real time thanks to the speed of an in-memory computing platform and a simple app design. This provides a holistic view of a patient’s medical history in a graphical timeline, enabling physicians to spend more time caring for patients rather then processing paperwork. It also dramatically reduces the turnaround time for clinical, studies, which can ultimately lead to life-changing discoveries.

We are still at an inflection point in bringing precision medicine to routine clinical care. Nevertheless, I am excited to be a part of the transformation of healthcare and can’t wait to see what comes next.

For more on how digital disruption is transforming healthcare, see Digital Networking For New Healthcare Business Models.




Enakshi Singh

About Enakshi Singh

Enakshi Singh works in Product Management at SAP HANA Healthcare Development. She has extensive experience in healthcare including genomics and research to deliver software to enable more precise and personalized clinical care.