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Big Data in Biomedicine : Precision Medicine, Precision Health, Innovative Technologies

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

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

My top speaker picks for this year’s conference were:

  • 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 Claudia & Kathy shared the latest progress with 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 cohort and healthcare provider organizations are able to recruit participants as well. Kathy estimated that it would take approximately 3-4 years to reach one million volunteers. Participants will not be just submitting their data, but continuous interactions with these volunteers is a key component of the PMI. Individual volunteers can consent to how their data can be used for research, and will receive regular updates on any research findings that were discovered using their data. By December of this year, the NIH expects to have the cohort program launched nationwide, all the infrastructure necessary in place, and approximately 79,000 volunteers signed up (including Kathy’s mom).

Robert discussed precisionFDA, a platform for enabling the regulatory science needed to advance the next-generation technologies enabling precision medicine. The platform is currently in beta, and researchers can test, pilot and validate bioinformatics tools for processing genomic data collected from Next-Generation sequencing technology.

One overall theme that was repeated throughout many talks was: data sharing & 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 more standard practice & researchers can learn more about the interplay between genomics (and other –omics) and health.


                                              Dr. Werner Eberhardt, General Manager SAP Connected Health, SAP SE

SAP’s Dr. Werner Eberhardt, General Manager of SAP Connected Health, gave a talk during the “Learning Health Systems” section. Dr. Werner outlined SAP’s strategy and vision to help save lives through the SAP Connected Health platform, which brings together an ecosystem of partners, including researchers and healthcare organizations to accelerate the development of patient-centered solutions. Werner highlighted the following projects:

  • Stanford Medicine & clinical genomics insights: A workflow and analytics support tool that provides real-time, interactive access to genomic data, wearable device data and clinical data from electronic medical records. T application supports the clinical workflow in identifying pathogenic genetic variants contributing to a patient’s clinical symptoms or diagnoses. This prototype application is built on top of the SAP Connected Health running on the SAP HANA platform.
  • CancerLinQ, a subsidiary of American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) will enable cancer care providers to improve the quality and value of care by analyzing millions of cancer patient medical records, uncovering patterns and trends, and measuring their care against that of their peers and recommended guidelines. As of now, a total of 58 practices have joined CancerLinQ and 750,000 patient records are in CancerLinQ. CancerLinQ is built on top of the SAP Connected Health platform, which is powered by SAP HANA.
  • National Center for Tumor Diseases & Medical Research Insights: Clinical researchers can visualize and analyze patient data from electronic medical records (and other source systems) in real-time due to the speed of SAP HANA. SAP Medical Research Insights provides a holistic view of a patient’s medical history in a graphical timeline, thereby giving physicians more time to care for patients instead of spending time navigating through clunky applications or going through paperwork. By allowing clinical researchers to select interactively select patient cohorts based on certain attributes, it also dramatically reduces the turnaround time for clinical studies, which can ultimately lead to life-changing discoveries.

This is only the beginning for SAP and its partners, and we are still at an inflection point in bringing Precision Medicine to routine clinical care. Soon, we will even see a world where Precision Health, which includes preventative and predictive measures become more widespread. I am excited to be a part of the digital transformation of healthcare, and can’t wait to see what comes next.

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