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Oxford University announces Big Data and IoT project for NHS patients

Fri 24 Oct 2014

Oxford University has launched a combined Big Data and Internet of Things programme designed to improve care for hospital patients.

In collaboration with the US-based Chan Soon-Shiong Institute of Molecular Medicine, the University of Oxford announced yesterday its plan to sequence genomes of individual patients using analytics tools and connected devices.

The project is fully supported by government, with George Freeman MP, Minister of Life Sciences, comparing the project to “the NASA of biomedicine.”

“This is a project to sequence the full genome of 100,000 patient volunteers in the NHS and combine it with the hospital clinical data,” he said.

“We’re creating the world’s first at-scale dataset [of the genome] […] which will help to shape the precision medicine landscape in the 21st century. Pulling together the two transformational technologies of genomics and informatics will allow us to practise in our health system a much more targeted, precise model of medicine for the benefit of patients,” Freeman continued.

Founder of the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute of Molecular Medicine, Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong, explained that the collection and analysis of the data, which will specifically help with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, would need the resources of a supercomputer .

“If you look at the United States there’s 13 million cancer survivors, which translates to 4,000 or 5,000 a day. That’s equivalent to 50 to 60 times the download of information from Facebook every day,” he explained.

The newly developed infrastructure allows for the extraction of data from the genome of one patient to take place in a matter of seconds, as opposed to 11 weeks using previous methods.

“The first thing that was needed was an infrastructure of data transfer which had never actually been considered on this planet before. So we had to actually create an infrastructure which could move all that data; this is now active,” Dr Soon-Shiong explained.

He pointed out that the data would be clearly understandable by a “busy practicing clinician.”

The project will also aim to harness the potential of wearable devices and the Internet of Things.

“We need to address the issue of informatics, the connection of the Internet of Things where you have wearable devices which can capture your vital signs. You need to be able to capture a single cell in that same patient and transfer it across the internet in a safe, secure way so any patient, anytime, anywhere can get the data,” Dr Soon-Shiong added.

The research partnership revealed the project’s ultimate goal is to ensure that the latest technologies are used within the NHS. “We are determined to make sure that we don’t just have technological leadership but we’re actually using and incorporating this at the heart of the 21st century NHS,” said Freeman.

“At the heart of this is a really important message that actually patient recruitment, the clinical infrastructure, the integration of genomics in the NHS and the investment in an NHS genomics medicine service sends a powerful message about this,” he added.

“We think that in the 21st century all medical care will be digital, all medicine will be digital and we’re investing in that underlying infrastructure to make it a reality” Freeman said, concluding the announcement.


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