The Challenges and Opportunities for Genomics in Healthcare

When researchers set out more than two decades ago to map the human genome, they couldn’t possibly imagine all of the challenges that would come with such opportunity. As is often the case with scientific breakthroughs, the areas of technology, policy and ethics are still trying to catch up. We have reached a tipping point in the promise of personalized medicine where our ability to generate genomic data has outpaced our ability to analyze it quickly and efficiently.

Events like Angelina Jolie’s recent elective mastectomy have put genomic testing squarely in the spotlight. Whether or not you agree with her very personal choice, one thing is clear: the era of using molecular information to diagnose, treat and even prevent certain diseases and disorders has arrived. Ms. Jolie’s diagnosis was based on the analysis of mutations to two genes that increase the risks of *** and ovarian cancer, but new technologies are being used to sequence thousands of genes and even whole genomes for patients. This massive amount of new information is critical to understanding the genome-wide complexity of disease, but analyzing it rapidly to make care decisions is challenging clinical researchers.

Fortunately, recent advances in high-performance computing and cloud-based solutions are enabling vast improvements in our ability to sequence and analyze genetic information. Dell is providing the secure platform supporting the world’s first personalized medicine clinical trial for pediatric cancer conducted by the Neuroblastoma and Medullobastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC) and supported by The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). The infrastructure – both a high-performance computing resource and a data exchange/collaboration resource – is being used to investigate new technologies that accelerate genetic analysis and identification of targeted treatments for individual neuroblastoma patients. A process that at one time took days to complete has been reduced to hours, and patients are receiving personalized treatment that much faster.

As we move along the continuum – from evidence-based medicine to information-enabled medicine to intelligence-based medicine – we create the opportunity for truly personalized health. Technology is helping to bridge the gap between patient and provider, science and medicine. But we can’t get there if we can’t quickly translate genomic data from the research bench to the patient’s bedside.

At the Dell Enterprise Forum, June 4-6 in San Jose, we’ll be announcing a new solution for healthcare and life sciences organizations that builds on our groundbreaking work with TGen and is designed specifically to reduce genomics workflows from days to hours for faster insights and treatments. Tune in June 4 to learn more.

About the Author: Dr. Andrew Litt