From data to discovery – the journey to digital innovation
Posted 3rd October 2018 by Kieran Chambers
Digital innovation in healthcare promises much. But potential and realisation are two very different things.
Researchers at Stanford in the US, for example, have developed an AI algorithm designed to diagnose skin cancer. AI diagnosis was compared with that of 21 dermatologists and it matched the efficacy of its human counterparts. This has significant implications for patients, particularly those who find it difficult to access healthcare professionals. But the implications don’t stop there.
This research is hugely promising, but only the tip of the iceberg. One study on one approach to one disease area. If we align the mass of healthcare data now being collected, we could look forward to a not too distant future where many diseases are diagnosed and treated, even pre-empted, without the need to enter the healthcare system at all. A future where your watch, smartphone or other wearable constantly monitors you, predicting, diagnosing and potentially preventing disease.
But the ‘if’ here is a big one. Aligning this mass of data isn’t easy and needs, as my colleague Will Spooner says in his blog, “…partnership on an unprecedented scale.”
Luckily, in the UK, we are pushing against an open door. We are focused on global leadership, not only in the creation of hugely valuable datasets like that held by Genomics England, but in our ability to extract value and deliver healthcare innovation.
The UK Government recognises both the economic and societal value of a Life Sciences Sector worth £70 billion, made up of an ecosystem of around 5,000 companies and employing close to 250,000 people. Sir Jon Bell’s report to the UK Government on Life Sciences recognised the need for alignment and recommended the creation of Digital Innovation Hubs, tasked with delivering a national and research-friendly approach to data. The UK has also established Health Data Research UK, tasked with pulling the many disparate data strands together and making them accessible and interoperable, encompassing projects such as LHCRE, to maximise value.
Genomics England’s role will be pivotal in this alignment. As we move beyond our groundbreaking 100,000 Genomes Project, the innovation and learning it has given us provides the perfect platform to act as a testbed for new genomic technologies and approaches.
We are already moving in the space, with one of our GeCIP research domains specifically exploring machine learning, ensuring that our ability to harness and analyse data keeps pace with our ability to collect it. We are also beginning to look at how aligned data, analysed and accessed using existing and emerging technologies, can help patients to take more control over their own healthcare, and better connect with the researchers who are working to help them.
The 100,000 Genomes Project saw the UK create of the world’s largest genomics dataset with associated clinical data from scratch, in just five years. Genomics England’s next mission will be to act first and fastest in harnessing and aligning the power of this data to deliver value. It’s no less of a challenge, but we’re looking forward to the next stage of the journey.
Joanne Hackett is the Chief Commercial Officer at Genomics England. She will give her presentation “Genomics England – Catalysing the UK Genomics Landscape” at the Global Pharma R&D Informatics and AI Congress.
The Global Pharma R&D Informatics and AI Congress will take place in London this October. The agenda includes a dedicated track on The Future of AI and Machine Learning in Pharma. Take a look at the agenda to find out more.
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