February 19 2013 could have marked the day in history where big data in healthcare and disease prevention hit the mainstream. Two significant events happened that will shape the future of big data usage in the prevention of diseases and the speed in which diseases can be cured.
The announcement that three of Silicon Valley's stars were funding a life sciences prize to help promote scientific endeavours aimed at identify- ing and eradicating diseases was met with wide- spread praise. Mark Zuckerberg (founder and CEO of Facebook), Sergey Brin (Founder and CEO of Google) and Yuri Milner (technology venture capitalist) have launched the annual prize that will see 11 scientists who are leading global initiatives to cure or prevent diseases, receive a $3 million payout.
They are hoping that with the recognition and financial reward these awards will bring to the winners, that more people will be willing to take on what has traditionally been seen as an underfunded and unappreciated endeavour. The injection of an additional $33 million to help with this work annually will also see successful initiatives push forward with their thinking and experimenting. This will mean that where before a project may see success but be hindered by bud- get constraints, now it will be able to push on and make a real difference at a rapid pace.
All three founders of these awards are innovators and forward thinkers. Brin has built one of the world's most innovative companies from the ground up, adopting new ideas and branching out what would have been a traditional search engine. Zuckerberg forever changed the way the world uses social media and interacts one anoth- er with a simple yet effective way of sharing in- formation with one another. Although less well known, Milner arguably has as much foresight as the other two, as you cannot become a successful venture capitalist without seeing the potential in products and investing in them at the right time.
However, at first glance this kind of humanitarian work, although a fantastic idea, is not within their traditional remit.
The second piece of news on the 19th that works with this announcement in pushing big data to the forefront of medical thinking is the announcement from Bina that they have launched the first commercially viable big data product to be used in genomics.
This may seem like it has been done before, but in reality the cost effectiveness of this will push forward the analysis of diseases and cures at a vastly increased rate. With the cloud element of the technology, it allows institutions to quickly,easily and most importantly cheaply, test theories and experiment with potential new genetic codes to eradicate certain diseases.
Before, the issue that was holding back real progress was that the only people who were really pushing on these subjects were institutes and universities. This meant that many of the projects were not adequately funded and given that one traditional genome test would cost around $1000, the number of these that could be under- taken were severely diminished. With this new
technology, the numbers that can be done are vastly increased whilst the cost will be significantly cut.
The mixture of cheaper analysis through this new technology and the increased investment and recognition through the new awards will have a significant impact on the speed of analysis. This will also offer increased hope of curing diseases like cancer within the coming years.
Although it is not known if these two events were orchestrated to occur on the same day, one thing that is certain is that February 19 will go down in history as the day that big data and disease prevention started to save lives. Whether intentional or not, the implications that this will have on the future of healthcare will once again see these three Silicon Valley stars innovating another major aspect of our lives.