Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine is involved with a novel approach to medical research lead by Jeff Hemmerbacher who co-founded the big data company Cloudera (see: In The Hospital Of The Future, Big Data Is One Of Your Doctors). Below is an excerpt from the article:
It’s rare to find a supercomputer in a hospital, even a major research center and medical school like Mount Sinai. But it’s also rare to find people like [Jeff] Hammerbacher...who is best known for launching Facebook’s data science team and, later, co-founding Cloudera, a top Silicon Valley "big data" software company where he is chief scientist today. After moving to New York this year to dive into a new role as a researcher at Sinai’s medical school, he is setting up a second powerful computing cluster based on Cloudera’s software (it’s called Demeter) and building tools to better store, process, mine, and build data models....Combined, the circumstances make for one of the most interesting experiments happening in hospitals right now....What we’re trying to build is a learning health care system. Through real-time data mining on a large scale—on massive computers like Minerva—hospitals could eventually operate in similar ways, both to improve health outcomes for individual patients who enter Mount Sinai’s doors as well as to make new discoveries about how to diagnose, treat, and prevent diseases at a broader, public health scale....[The group is developing a visualization of patients with] Type 2 diabetes. What we're looking at could be an entirely new notion of a highly scrutinized disease....From this map and others like it,...[the researchers] might be able to pinpoint genes that are unique to diabetes patients in the different clusters, giving new ways to understand how our genes and environments are linked to disease, symptoms, and treatments. In another configuration of the map,... [researchers are showing] how racial and ethnic genetic differences may define different patterns of a disease like diabetes—and ultimately, require different treatments.
What I find so interesting about this narrative is that it seems to present a relatively new alternative for medical research that is different from classic bench research. Every medical school with an affiliated hospital has access to a large EHR clinical database, usually an untapped resource from a research perspective. The Cloudera web site, the company founded by Jeff Hemmerbacher, makes mention of the need for an enterprise data hub (EDH) as a requirement for big data research, which is defined in the following way (see: enterprise data hub).
An enterprise data hub is a big data management model that uses a Hadoop platform as the central data repository. The goal of an enterprise data hub is to provide an organization with a centralized, unified data source that can quickly provide diverse business users with the information they need to do their jobs.
Also, here is a definition for (see: Hadoop)
Hadoop is a free, Java-based programming framework that supports the processing of large data sets in a distributed computing environment. It is part of the Apache project sponsored by the Apache Software Foundation.
So, in order to get into the "big data research," a medical school like Mount Sinai needs a super computer like Minerva, an enterprise data hub (EDH), and a team of sophisticated IT scientists like Jeff Hammerbacher. No small undertaking. In so doing, however, the school can position itself as a national leader in terms of big data medical research. There is no question that major advances can be made in our understanding of highly prevalent diseases like Type 2 diabetes with such an approach. Big data is extremely important in the for-profit corporate world to better understand, for example, the needs and desires of customers. Why should we not use this same approach for medical research to improve patient care?