Accelerating Medical Breakthroughs? I’m ready.

A guest post by Rob Fraser, COO of the Personalized Medicine Initiative and Co-Founder of MYCo

Here at the University of British Columbia’s Personalized Medicine Initiative (PMI), we have a big, bold mission: to wipe out diabetes, cancer and other diseases. It’s what I think about every day when I’m in the lab working on the Molecular You Pathfinder project, which uses next-generation molecular profiling to better identify health risks and options for prevention, treatment and monitoring for up to 20,000 people. Through this project, my colleagues and I are hoping to give scientists data that helps them detect disease risk and initiate early intervention.

But we were missing something — the right technology to manage all the big data we need to collect from the project, now and well into the future. We needed a new, cost-effective way of collecting all the data so we could keep analyzing the increasing volumes of clinical information we planned to gather over the life of the program.

Student looking at moleculesCombining and analyzing complex clinical data

We addressed our challenge by implementing the PHEMI Central Big Data Warehouse, a big data platform powered by Dell servers and networking switches that integrates with the Hadoop open-source big data platform. This solution makes it easy for us to collect, store and manage clinical data and data related to “omics,” which is the study of the technologies, roles, relationships and actions of molecular biology in DNA, proteins and metabolites. Now, we can conduct a full phenotype test on all Pathfinder participants, using bone scans, cognitive tests and clinical lab tests and analyze the data in the PHEMI big data warehouse.

 And because the PHEMI and Dell technologies scale easily and economically, we know we can efficiently collect and analyze this clinical and omics data for years to come, no matter how large the data sets become.

Our future expectation: picking off diseases, one by one

Our work on the Molecular You Pathfinder is still in the early stages, but we believe we’ll be able to use our insights to make some amazing personalized medicine breakthroughs. By fully analyzing all molecular components of the project participants, we think we’ll get an opportunity to make a huge difference by tackling devastating diseases and picking them off one by one. 

Also, because our platform gives us virtually infinite capacity, we know we can easily grow the system in the future to take on any amount of clinical data we want. We’re doing our work at a very exciting time. I know the analysis we’ll get with the PHEMI and Dell solution is going to change the face of personalized medicine in the months and years ahead. And most importantly, it’s going to change people’s lives.

Read more about our story here


About the author

Dr. Fraser has a strong background and success rate in the development of targeted therapeutics. Driven by the need to better target the therapy to the individual to improve its safety and efficacy, he joined Dr. Cullis at the start of 2011 to establish the PMI for BC, which is a major opportunity for multiple institutions and stakeholders within the province to work together and transform the healthcare in BC. Prior to joining the PMI, Dr. Fraser was the Group Leader in Target Identification for Sanofi, Senior Director of Biology for Xenon Pharmaceuticals, Senior Director of Pharmacology and Site Director at Neuromed (now Zalicus) and Director Project Evaluation at the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD).


About the Author: Thea Hayden