Big data is at the forefront of biotech innovation and helping researchers better understand our genomes.
JN: How big of a barrier to growing adoption is privacy and patient concerns regarding the use of their data? What can be done to overcome this?
SD: “The Cloudera solution Navigator Key Trustee allows companies and government agencies to securely transfer sensitive data to authorised parties. If a private citizen authorises an institution to share his or her personal data, Navigator Key Trustee can serve as the conduit and provides a much safer option than email or other digital file sharing sites, which can be easily intercepted or hacked.
“For example, a physician’s office could share authorised patient information with a hospital in another country. First, the organisations would have to validate the respective servers that are exchanging information with the Navigator Key Trustee server via GPG credential exchange.
“Once the validation process is complete, the physician can share the patient data by entering it in the secure server and establishing policies that allow access by only the validated server from the hospital. Intelligently, the time-to-live and retrieval limit policies can also be set up to ensure sensitive data is only retrieved one time.”
JN: How advanced is the UK compared to other countries when it comes to projects like this?
SD: “One area where the UK acts as a bellwether is around molecular big data, which is often thought of as ‘genomics’. The UK has an overweight share of innovations and inventions used to create molecular data. One of the icons of this is Oxford Nanopore, creator of the first realistic handheld genomic sequencer, the MINion. Also, one of the few genomic data structures that was designed from scratch for big data usage, called OpenCGA, was developed at Cambridge.
“Further, the world’s first sovereign genomic program, the 100,000 Genomes Project, is a UK initiative. Once Genomics England LTD (GEL) was announced and began, a number of other countries such as China, United States, and France created similar programs.
“With a number of global pharma research and developments sites in-country, an academic environment rich in a tradition of biotech invention, large pools of genomic data at GEL and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and a collaborative approach globally, the UK plays a key role in ensuring molecular big data innovation will continue apace.”