Big data is a big priority in many industries, including biotechnology. Big data is the layering of massive amounts of information from a variety of sources. These include communications, business transactions and many other processes, everything from jet flights to weather patterns. Increasingly, we are able to capture and analyze these enormous volumes of data and apply the findings of the analysis to specific problems.
This is a relatively new capability. Even in the year 2000, only about one-quarter of all stored information was digital. Most data was still in the form of paper records, tape recordings and other traditional media. But the volume of digital data has since exploded. It has doubled approximately every three years, and includes social media posts, internet searches, health records, electronic credit card transactions, emails or books and articles that have been converted to a digital format. As a result, less than two percent of all data today is non-digital.[i]
Now that tremendous amounts of data can be captured, stored and processed quickly and cheaply, the application of big data in fields such as manufacturing, marketing, law enforcement and weather forecasting will continue to rise.
In life sciences and healthcare, the promise of big data includes better prediction of the risk and onset of disease in individuals and populations. This allows more targeted and effective treatments that result in better patient outcomes and reduced medical costs.
But how soon will big data transform the way life science research is conducted and healthcare is provided? That depends on how much digital data is produced and how well it’s utilized. Doctors will have to continue to make the switch from paper to electronic medical records. Drug and medical device manufacturers and healthcare providers will have to use big data to guide which biotech products are produced and determine how patients are treated with different therapies and technologies.
In Seattle, research institutions like the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) are already using big data to shift the practice of medicine from a reactive to a predictive activity. Instead of waiting for a person to get sick, ISB is working to create a model of medicine that predicts and prevents illness. To accomplish this, the ISB approach examines an individual’s genetic profile, physiological processes, their environment, lifestyle and the interaction between these and many other factors.
This big-data approach holds the promise of personalized medicine that increases the length and quality of life through predicative and targeted medical care. Big data has remarkable potential to advance global health, identify and prevent epidemics and better understand and treat costly chronic diseases.
Nyhus Communications provides marketing, PR, public affairs and executive communications services for businesses and organizations that are at the forefront of using big data to improve life science research and patient outcomes. Whether our clients are engaged in drug development or cancer research, we offer professional communications and advocacy services to help them achieve their goals.
[i] “The Rise of Big Data: How It’s Changing the Way We Think About the World”. Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Shcoenberger. Foreign Affairs. May/June 2013