Data science has earned a prominent place on the front lines of precision medicine – the ability to target treatments to the specific physiological makeup of an individual’s disease. As cloud computing services and open-source big data have accelerated the digital transformation, small, agile research labs all over the world can engage in development of new drug therapies and other innovations. Previously, the necessary open-source databases and high-throughput sequencing technologies were accessible only by large research centers with the necessary processing power. In the evolving big data landscape, startup and emerging biopharma organizations have a unique opportunity to make valuable discoveries in this space. 

The drive for real-world data

Through big data, researchers can connect with previously untold volumes of biological data. They can harness the processing power to manage and analyze this information to detect disease markers and otherwise understand how we can develop treatments targeted to the individual patient. Genomic data alone will likely exceed 40 exabytes by 2025 according to 2015 projections published by the Public Library of Science journal Biology. As data volume increases, its accessibility to emerging researchers improves as the cost of big data technologies decreases. 

A recent report from Accenture highlights the importance of big data in downstream medicine, specifically oncology. Among surveyed oncologists, 65% said they want to work with pharmaceutical reps who can fluently discuss real-world data, while 51% said they expect they will need to do so in the future. 

The application of artificial intelligence in precision medicine relies on massive databases the software can process and analyze to predict future occurrences. With AI, your teams can quickly assess the validity of data and connect with decision support software that can guide the next research phase. You can find links and trends in voluminous data sets that wouldn’t necessarily be evident in smaller studies. 

Applications of precision medicine

Among the oncologists Accenture surveyed, the most common applications for precision medicine included matching drug therapies to patients’ gene alterations, gene sequencing, liquid biopsy, and clinical decision support. In one example of the power of big data for personalized care, the Cleveland Clinic Brain Study is reviewing two decades of brain data from 200,000 healthy individuals to look for biomarkers that could potentially aid in prevention and treatment. 

AI is also used to create new designs for clinical trials. These programs can identify possible study participants who have a specific gene mutation or meet other granular criteria much faster than a team of researchers could determine this information and gather a group of the necessary size. 

A study published in the journal Cancer Treatment and Research Communications illustrates the impact of big data on cancer treatment modalities. The research team used AI to mine National Cancer Institute medical records and find commonalities that may influence treatment outcomes. They determined that taking certain antidepressant medications correlated with longer survival rates among the patients included in the dataset, opening the door for targeted research on those drugs as potential lung cancer therapies. 

Other common precision medicine applications of big data include:

  • New population-level interventions based on socioeconomic, geographic, and demographic factors that influence health status and disease risk
  • Delivery of enhanced care value by providing targeted diagnoses and treatments to the appropriate patients
  • Flagging adverse reactions to treatments
  • Detection of the underlying cause of illness through data mining
  • Human genomics decoding with technologies such as genome-wide association studies and next-generation sequencing software programs

These examples only scratch the surface of the endless research and development possibilities big data unlocks for start-ups in the biopharma sector. Consult with the team at RCH Solutions to explore custom AI applications and other innovations for your lab, including scalable cloud services for growing biotech and pharma research organizations.

Mike Wlodarczyk

Mike spends his days supporting our customers and prospects, offering solutions to help them meet their compute needs.