Big Data in biomedicine promises improvements to medical research and patient care

Nearly 200 bioinformatics experts participated in the B·Debate on big data in biomedicine


B·Debate, an initiative of Biocat and the “la Caixa” Foundation to promote scientific debate, brought together roughly 200 bioinformatics experts from here at home and abroad at CaixaForum Barcelona for two days of intense debate on the challenges and opportunities of big data in biomedicine. On this occasion, B·Debate’s scientific partner was Barcelona Bioinformatics (BIB), a newly created initiative that brings together more than 40 organizations, including universities, research centers, large-scale facilities, companies and the most important hospitals in the country.

The great volume of biomedical data generated through research and patient care allows for great advances in research, diagnosis and treatment of disease. Now experts in the field are working to access all of this data, create multidisciplinary groups and forge international collaborations in order to make the most of the information available.

Regarding the opportunities of big data for patient care and health research, Ana Ripoll, president of Barcelona Bioinformatics (BIB), says, “We must move away from reactive medicine and towards predictive medicine”. One example of the significant advances that big data promises in healthcare is its use to analyze drug reactions. Having the digitalized medical history of millions of patients allows for large population samples to be used to analyze the adverse effects of drugs that haven’t been described yet.

In terms of research, scientists believe that proper management of big data can allow them to exploit all of the new knowledge being generated and effectively locate relevant information. “No one can read all that information. We need to take advantage of the fact that this information is available digitally in order to prioritize and analyze it,” explained Ferran Sanz, scientific director of the BIB and of the Pompeu Fabra UniversityHospital del Mar Medical Research Institute Research Program on Biomedical Informatics - GRIB.

Privacy and data handling were also discussed in the debate, and the experts assured that all data is anonymous, wiped of all personal references. For Ferran Sanz, it is clear: “We don’t have to worry, because data from the biomedical arena is dealt with much more securely than that in other areas, like on social media,” he explained.


Related news:

Big Data, the new challenge facing biomedicine (19.09.2014)