Big data, cloud computing make data access more democratic

Susan D. Hall| Fiercehealthit

Advances in big data and cloud computing are providing more democratic access to the reams of information the government collects, federal officials said at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association annual health IT conference in Bethesda, MD.

Before, data would be shipped to researchers on encrypted hard drives. Now any vetted research institution can access the same data through the cloud, reports the Federal Times.

With better tools and improved access through the cloud more scientists and researchers will be able to use the data in productive ways, said Mike Tartakovsky, the chief information officer and director of the Office of Cyber Infrastructure and Computational Biology at the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

George Komatsoulis, deputy director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology at the National Cancer Institute, said that the prospect of personalized cancer treatments will drive large-scale biomedical informatics capabilities in the next 10 years.

He said his agency also is mapping the genome of 11,000 tumors with the data to be stored in the cloud to boost cancer research. To date, the agency has gathered 2.5 petabytes of data.

So far, access to data has been “asymmetrical”–favoring big healthcare corporations at the expense of patients and individual physicians, according to Adrian Gropper, M.D., chief technical officer of the nonprofit Patient Privacy Rights. He favors providing patients with access to their own information and reasserting the primacy of the physician-patient relationship. Technologies such as Blue Button Plus and real-time online accounting of disclosures in data exchange can restore the balance and prompt more patients to want to participate in clinical trials, he says.

The National Cancer Institute in July made public one of the largest cancer databases pairing 60 sequenced cancer cell lines from various parts of the body with an algorithm to predict the sensitivity of cells with cancer-specific variants to 103 anti-cancer drugs approved by the FDA and an additional 207 new drugs.

And advancements in gene sequencing and computational capabilities are among the factors behind M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s Moon Shots program, which is focused on fighting eight common cancers.

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