Thursday, June 6, 2013


February 19 could mark the day in history
where big data in healthcare and disease prevention hit the mainstream. Two significant
events happened that will shape the future of big
data usage in the prevention of diseases and the
speed in which diseases can be cured.
The announcement that three of Silicon Valley's
stars were funding a life sciences prize to help
promote scientific endeavours aimed at identifying and eradicating diseases was met with widespread praise. Mark Zuckerberg (founder and
CEO of Facebook), Sergey Brin (Founder and CEO
of Google) and Yuri Milner (technology venture
capitalist) have launched the annual prize that
will see 11 scientists who are leading global initiatives to cure or prevent diseases, receive a $3
million payout.
They are hoping that with the recognition and
financial reward these awards will bring to the
winners, that more people will be willing to take
on what has traditionally been seen as an underfunded and unappreciated endeavour. The
injection of an additional $33 million to help
with this work annually will also see successful
initiatives push forward with their thinking and
experimenting. This will mean that where before
a project may see success but be hindered by budget constraints, now it will be able to push on and
make a real difference at a rapid pace.
All three founders of these awards are innovators and forward thinkers. Brin has built one of
the world's most innovative companies from the
ground up, adopting new ideas and branching
out what would have been a traditional search
engine. Zuckerberg forever changed the way the
world uses social media and interacts one another with a simple yet effective way of sharing information with one another. Although less well
known, Milner arguably has as much foresight as
the other two, as you cannot become a successful
venture capitalist without seeing the potential in
products and investing in them at the right time.
However, at first glance this kind of humanitarian work, although a fantastic idea, is not within
their traditional remit.
The second piece of news on the 19th that works
with this announcement in pushing big data
to the forefront of medical thinking is the announcement from Bina that they have launched
the first commercially viable big data product to
be used in genomics.
This may seem like it has been done before, but
in reality the cost effectiveness of this will push
forward the analysis of diseases and cures at a
vastly increased rate. With the cloud element of
“February 19 will mark the day
in history where big data in
healthcare and disease
prevention hit the
11the technology, it allows institutions to quickly,
easily and most importantly cheaply, test theories and experiment with potential new genetic
codes to eradicate certain diseases.
Before, the issue that was holding back real progress was that the only people who were really
pushing on these subjects were institutes and
universities. This meant that many of the projects were not adequately funded and given that
one traditional genome test would cost around
$1000, the number of these that could be undertaken were severely diminished. With this new
technology, the numbers that can be done are
vastly increased whilst the cost will be significantly cut.
The mixture of cheaper analysis through this
new technology and the increased investment
and recognition through the new awards will
have a significant impact on the speed of analysis. This will also offer increased hope of curing
diseases like cancer within the coming years.
Although it is not known if these two events were
orchestrated to occur on the same day, one thing
that is certain is that February 19 will go down in
history as the day that big data and disease prevention started to save lives. Whether intentional or not, the implications that this will have on
the future of healthcare will once again see these
three Silicon Valley stars innovating another major aspect of our lives.

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