In the year 2014, the idea of big data is not exactly a novel one and as a tool, we’re starting to see that the possibilities may in fact be endless. These possibilities include uses in the biobanking industry—many of which we’ve only begun to see in the last 18 months. Mark Collins, speaker at this year’s Biorepository and Sample Management conference, gave us some further insight into how big data is being leveraged in the industry today.
You’ve referred to leveraging the “right theater for the right people at the right time”. So, in 2014 everyone is trying to utilize big data. What do you see as the role of big data and informatics in biobanks and biorepositories?
Mark: Really, there are two aspects to it. One is – like I said – organizations are increasingly widening the network of data that they associate with their sample from electronic medical record data, which you would argue is big data for sure – to next generation sequencing databases to public databases, as well, such as TCGA – The Cancer Genome Atlas. That is sort of an infrastructure use of big data.
The other uses of big data that we are just starting to see really only very recently – only the last 18 months – there is a lot of big data out there in healthcare that is referred to as what is called: “real world evidence”. So, it’s data that is collected not for a specific purpose of answering a specific scientific question. It’s collected in the course of things like patients coming to a hospital or patients visiting a doctor’s office. It’s things like Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement data. It’s prescription information from the UK, for example. That’s a really rich set of data that can be mined to assemble patient profiles to go and prospectively get samples from those kinds of patients. That’s a really exciting way to think about your biobank. Not only is it the sample that it contains today, but by using informatics and big data in this kind of way and because you’ve got your samples already that you have in your biobank highly annotated, if someone comes to you and says: “Hey, we’ve assembled a cohort of people that we want to use for our clinical trial. Do you have any samples from people like that so that we can maybe test out our clinical trial or do a virtual clinical trial on some samples in your biobank before we go out and recruit patients for that profile and bank additional samples?”
So, this is the biobank – again – participating in the science driven by the power of big data. Through big data being analyzed to generate profiles to look for samples in an already existing biobank, as well as annotating the samples as richly as possible with big data where you have it in the biobank that you have today.
You can download the full interview here.
You can hear more from Mark Collins at this year’s Biorepository and Sample Management conference. Join us September 8-10 in Boston, MA.
Download the agenda to see what else is on tap.
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