Medicine Borrows from Marketing to Learn About Disease

Check out Faisal Anwar Virginia’s latest blog post:


Science is appropriating big data techniques traditionally used by marketing and advertising to understand links between genetics and disease.

It seems like everything we read about in the news these days involved “Big Data.”  Privacy concerns with data collection range from social networks like Facebook collecting data for targeted ads, to Nielsen employing set top boxes to measure television ratings, all the way to the United States government collecting data on citizens in the name of national security.

While industries such as advertising and bodies like the federal government have been using big data collection for years, one of the relative newcomers to the game is the medical industry.  A recent Telegraph article discusses how the medical research world is using more and more data at an exponential rate.

As the article notes, the Human Genome Project was officially “completed” in 2003, but in some ways this was really the beginning of the application of big data in the medical field.  One of the major goals of this data collection is to advance science’s understanding of the link between disease and genetics.  In very basic terms, laboratories sequence DNA from patients with certain diseases and compare them to other DNA sequences to determine the cause of disease.

There are also already practical applications of the technology being put to use.  The Telegraph piece features how sequencing was able to determine the source of a MRSA outbreak in the neo-natal ward of a hospital in the UK.  Not only were researchers able to determine the source of the outbreak, they were able to rule out the possibility of multiple strains by comparing the sequencing results of separate bacteria samples.

The other staggering point in the article is the sheer speed with which sequencing technology has advanced.  Sanger, one of the leaders in DNA sequencing, uses machines that are able to do more sequencing in one hour than the institute did in its first decade of existence.

Those interested in the medical field should keep their eyes on the advancement of DNA sequencing as it will most likely change the way the medical world looks at macro data on disease and genetics.

via Faisal Anwar Virginia


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