The Real Health Care Revolution Awaits

By Michael Feldman

March 11, 2010

The current political debate on US health care reform is depressing on so many levels. The fact that the wealthiest country in the world can’t seem to figure out a way to provide basic medical care for its citizens is discouraging enough. Worse, the current plan on the table will basically just bring more people into the 20th century-style health care model. In general, that model is reactionary: waiting for a disease or medical emergency to strike, and then treating the symptoms with drugs or surgery. The good news is that this style of medicine is going out of fashion.

In all likelihood, the new model is going to be something similar to what’s referred to as “P4” medicine (powerfully predictive, personalized, preventative). That is a term coined by biotech luminary Leroy Hood, president and cofounder of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. The idea is to bring a P4 approach into the practice of health care, incorporating the rapidly advancing technologies of molecular immunology, biotechnology, genomics, and computer science. Hood’s non-profit Systems Biology institute is designed to bring together researchers from these fields and act as a incubator for P4-type biotech spinoffs.

Hood has been actively spreading the word about how this new approach will transform medicine. In fact, he was one of the plenary speakers at SC09 in Portland last November, where he talked about the way HPC fits into the systems biology paradigm. In a recent interview published in Technology Review, Hood spells out the basic outline of P4 medicine:

Individual genomes will become a standard of medical records in 10 years or so, and we will have the power to make inferences [about an individual’s health] when combined with phenotypic information. Then we can begin to plan strategies for individual health care in ways we have never done before.

The idea is to use knowledge of a person’s genome to deliver targeted treatments that optimize that individual’s health, ideally before disease strikes. The paradigm encompasses all the new biotech buzzwords: nanotechnology, genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics. Layered on top of all this is the computational know-how that will be used to turn the “omics” data into useful health care. Says Hood:

Medicine is going to become an information science. The whole health-care system requires a level of IT that goes beyond mere digitization of medical records, which is what most people are talking about now. In 10 years or so, we may have billions of data points on each individual, and the real challenge will be to develop information technology that can reduce that to real hypotheses about that individual.

Hood worries that we’ll be hard-pressed to come up with enough computational horsepower and storage capacity to deal with the genomic data for billions of people. I would be less concerned on that front. High performance computing and storage seems to be moving along at least as quickly as genome capturing technologies like DNA sequencing.

Connecting biotech with IT is the key, since this can move health care onto a Moore’s Law-like curve where the value per dollar increases exponentially over time. The current trajectory of 20th century-style medicine is unsustainable. According to the US Congressional Budget Office, health care costs are on track to reach 50 percent of GDP by the middle of the century and 100 percent by 2082. Obviously that can’t happen (see Stein’s Law).

Tweaking peoples’ genes to make them healthier and longer lived, via pharmagenomics and related technologies, is a much more economical approach. We already employ a low-tech version of this today when we make healthy lifestyle choices: exercising, eating well, getting regular sleep, and so on. All these activities can profoundly change our gene expression for the better. Being able to tune up our DNA and other cellular components in a more precise way would be the ultimate in preventive care. In fact, it would eradicate most of the costs associated with treating degenerative diseases — everything from cancer, heart disease and diabetes to Alzheimer’s. Preventing just these four diseases would eliminate a huge chunk of the health care bill.

In the meantime, we can watch the current health care debate in the US and hope we can at least achieve broader access to a 20th century medical system. But whatever happens, it’s probably not worth getting too stressed out about it. I’m told it’s not good for your health.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Nvidia Debuts Turing Architecture, Focusing on Real-Time Ray Tracing

August 16, 2018

From the SIGGRAPH professional graphics conference in Vancouver this week, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang unveiled Turing, the company's next-gen GPU platform that introduces new RT Cores to accelerate ray tracing and new Tenso Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Coding: The Power of L(o)osing Control

August 16, 2018

Exascale roadmaps, exascale projects and exascale lobbyists ask, on-again-off-again, for a fundamental rewrite of major code building blocks. Otherwise, so they claim, codes will not scale up. Naturally, some exascale pr Read more…

By Tobias Weinzierl

STAQ(ing) the Quantum Computing Deck

August 16, 2018

Quantum computers – at least for now – remain noisy. That’s another way of saying unreliable and in diverse ways that often depend on the specific quantum technology used. One idea is to mitigate noisiness and perh Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Super Problem Solving

You might think that tackling the world’s toughest problems is a job only for superheroes, but at special places such as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, supercomputers are the real heroes. Read more…

NREL ‘Eagle’ Supercomputer to Advance Energy Tech R&D

August 14, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has contracted with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) for a new 8-petaflops (peak) supercomputer that will be used to advance early-stage R&a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

STAQ(ing) the Quantum Computing Deck

August 16, 2018

Quantum computers – at least for now – remain noisy. That’s another way of saying unreliable and in diverse ways that often depend on the specific quantum Read more…

By John Russell

NREL ‘Eagle’ Supercomputer to Advance Energy Tech R&D

August 14, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has contracted with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) for a new 8-petaflops (peak Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SLATE Update: Making Math Libraries Exascale-ready

August 9, 2018

Practically-speaking, achieving exascale computing requires enabling HPC software to effectively use accelerators – mostly GPUs at present – and that remain Read more…

By John Russell

Summertime in Washington: Some Unexpected Advanced Computing News

August 8, 2018

Summertime in Washington DC is known for its heat and humidity. That is why most people get away to either the mountains or the seashore and things slow down. H Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

NSF Invests $15 Million in Quantum STAQ

August 7, 2018

Quantum computing development is in full ascent as global backers aim to transcend the limitations of classical computing by leveraging the magical-seeming prop Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

By the Numbers: Cray Would Like Exascale to Be the Icing on the Cake

August 1, 2018

On its earnings call held for investors yesterday, Cray gave an accounting for its latest quarterly financials, offered future guidance and provided an update o Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This