Big data and big data analytics in the biotech and pharma industries have come into their own as research and development tools in the last few years. Basic biological research, drug design, computational biology, disease prediction models using whole genome sequencing – all are enabled by new technologies and access to big data and cloud computing. The explosion of interest in big data is illustrated by the numerous conferences, white papers, industry news, and journal articles aimed at educating business leaders and scientists on the resources available for the analysis of big data sets for health and life sciences applications
Industry and government funding has increased markedly as well, all dedicated towards the goal of training scientists, business, and IT professionals to develop and utilize novel methods, applications, software, and tools for big data analysis. Big data datasets are publicly available from a number of sources, such as the NIH, the 1000 Genomes Project, and Amazon Web Services. Proprietary datasets, often curated and specific to a given disease or area of interest, are also available for purchase or fee-for-use. The NSF and the NIH are funding projects such as the $50 million iPlant Collaborative and the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative, launched in December 2012.
The availability of data and computing power and the current trend for utilizing big data and analytics raise a number of questions for life sciences firms. We here at BIP have been thinking about these questions recently and how they can be answered for our clients –
- What do all of these new data resources mean for your product development and your company?
- Where is the “big data” coming from and is it the right data and/or analysis tool for you or your company?
- Can smaller firms not associated with academia or big pharma utilize these new big datasets and cloud-based computing options effectively and efficiently?
- Are there patient privacy issues related to any of the data needed for your research?
The answers to these questions may be unique to each firm, line of business, and phase of product development. Are you the type to jump first and ask questions later?
Big data analytics may or may not be relevant for you at this particular moment and utilizing big data requires serious consideration of these and other “big questions” before proceeding. Strategic planning on adoption of big data now could avert trouble down the road and has the potential to allow you and your company to achieve what has never been possible before.
BIP would love to hear from you about your approach to these questions, your answers to these questions, and your pathways forward. Is big data right for you?