Big Data + Big Biology = A Big New Field: Quantified Health

Published: July 17, 2012 Author: Clearpoint Tags: News

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Something big is on the horizon. Two of the biggest trends in technology and science are meeting - Big data and big biology. The convergence could bring more job growth in parts of Houston's big healthcare sector.

Big data is simply the catch all term for the technologies and practice of handling data sets so large those conventional database management systems cannot handle them efficiently. Big biology refers to recent fundamental breakthroughs in DNA sequencing, genome biology and molecular diagnostics--big projects that can capture the world's interest and imagination.1

Earlier this year, the NIH published the entire dataset for the 1000 Genomes Project, described as the "world's largest set of data on human genetic variation". The data set has grown to about 200 terabytes, equivalent to 16 million file cabinets of text.

With computing and analysis tools designed to manage these vast data sets, medical researchers, like those at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine and UT Medical Branch, can deploy quantified health approaches to develop disease treatments and better practices to help patients.

The unprecedented magnitude of data and myriad new ways to measure "health" through data analytics allow us to mine information that was previously unattainable. We can now quantify health.

For example, new molecular biology tools make it possible to analyze a patient's genome--and determine if a patient has a genetic predisposition for conditions like diabetes or heart disease. Data analysts will be able to map millions of data points to detect early signs of disease long before any symptoms appear. They'll be able to compare the data of millions of patients to create a new bell curve of "normal."

Lee Hood of the Seattle-based Institute for Systems Biology says that the combination of big biology with big data creates what he calls "P4 Medicine"--healthcare that is predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory.

As quantified health takes off, there will be an increased need for data analysts, information security specialists, network developers, software designers and other IT professionals--to help both healthcare professionals and consumers collect, protect and manage their data.

In addition, we expect more demand for people with a particular talent for spotting patterns, aggregating data, and presenting them in ways that make sense to people. Watch for the rise of the Data Scientist who has been described as an "inquisitive" sort - "part analyst and part artist."

Clearpoint Technology keeps up to date on the latest developments in the IT technology field. If quantified health takes off, we'll be the place to find the IT support you need. And if you're looking for skilled information IT professionals now, contact us today!


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