Medical Research Powered by Data

By Dr. Frank Lee, IBM

February 14, 2019

“We’re all the same, but we’re unique as well. In that uniqueness lies all of the answers….”

  • Mark Tykocinski, MD, Provost, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Thomas Jefferson University

Getting the answers to what causes some people to develop diseases and not others is driving the groundbreaking medical research being conducted by the Computational Medicine Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

Using a high-performance computing (HPC) platform powered by IBM, Isidore Rigoutsos, PhD, Founder and Director of the Computational Medicine Center at Thomas Jefferson University, and his team are deepening our understanding of disease and wellness at the individual patient level by analyzing massive amounts of diverse biological datasets. This data can then be used to guide development of new and more effective diagnostic techniques and therapies to benefit patients – with the data providing levels of personalization never seen before.

By relying on Big Data analytics to guide their research into disease disparities, Dr. Rigoutsos and his team have generated strong evidence that who we are influences our predisposition for disease, disease progression and severity, therapeutic options, and other critical factors. Specifically, the Center has shown that sex, race/ethnicity and geographic origin affect the abundance of potent regulatory molecules and the proteins these molecules control. These findings have already led to the design of a pan-cancer biomarker panel that can distinguish among 32 cancer types with high sensitivity and specificity.

Dr. Rigoutsos states: “We now have the ability to generate tons of data in a guided way from a cell, a tissue, or an organism. So, the question is, can we figure out what the data is telling us?”

The team combines HPC, data-driven hypothesis generation and traditional experimental laboratory work to unravel the biogenesis and function of their newly discovered molecules. Their work is revealing an unprecedented level of detail linked to previously unsuspected events that underlie various diseases. Generating invaluable clinical insights is possible due to the ability to mine complex data types and drill down to the essence of what effects cell behavior.

“Let’s let the data tell us what’s important in a cell, Dr. Rigoutsos adds. “We’re discovering the data is telling us that there are more variables and more things to consider. This is precisely what we do – we take all of these new variables into account as we try to understand the onset and progression of disease.”

Stephen Klasko MD, MBA, President of Thomas Jefferson University and Chief Executive Officer of Jefferson Health, describes the research conducted by the Computational Medicine Center at Thomas Jefferson University as a game changer that will have a significant impact on people’s health, leading the way to truly personalized medicine: “When we partner with the industry like IBM or others, we’re investing in you. We’re investing in you the patient, you the student, you the community – because it’s going to take those kinds of creative partnerships to really have you be healthier.”

Video: Redefining Humanly Possible

As explained in a fascinating e-book and series of videos, everyone on the team – from students to the faculty – realizes the importance of what they’re doing: generating new insights towards better understanding the human body and the diversity and uniqueness of each individual to support the next phase of personalized care.

About Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University)

Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) is a leader in transdisciplinary professional education. Home of the Sidney Kimmel Medical College and the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce, Jefferson is a national professional university delivering high-impact education in 160 undergraduate and graduate programs to 7,800 students in architecture, business, design, engineering, fashion, health, medicine, science and textiles.

The new Jefferson is redefining the higher education value proposition with an approach that is collaborative and active; increasingly global; integrated with industry; focused on research across disciplines to foster innovation and discovery; and technology-enhanced. Student-athletes compete as the Jefferson Rams in the NCAA Division II Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference.

At this intersection of big data and medical research stands a strong desire for redefining what’s humanly possible.  The urge to significantly push the boundaries of knowledge, anticipating new breakthroughs in healthcare is leading Thomas Jefferson University to adopt a data-driven approach. Letting the data lead the way and using a high-performance data architecture as the catalyst has allowed them to support precision medicine research and protect data. To read the full story and watch the video series click here:





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