LifeOmic: precision medicine and the cloud
Dr Don Brown is the founder and CEO of LifeOmic, a software company that has created the Precision Health Cloud (PHC), currently in use at major medical centres in the US. We ask Brown to tell us more about this, and about the latest in precision medicine.
What made you decide to establish LifeOmic?
LifeOmic is really my attempt to close the circle of my life. After earning an undergraduate degree in physics, I enrolled in an MD/PhD programme in biochemistry and planned to become a biomedical researcher. I ended up switching from biochemistry to computer science and started a small software company as I was finishing medical school. Then I went to work for that company full time and spent the next three decades building highly-regarded software companies.
I maintained my interest in life sciences and ultimately enrolled in a master’s programme in biotechnology at Johns Hopkins. This gave me the opportunity to work back through biochemistry, molecular biology and other topics that rekindled my desire to do something significant in health and medicine. Upon selling my last company, Interactive Intelligence, I founded LifeOmic in 2016 with the goal of applying cloud technologies and artificial intelligence to healthcare to advance personalised medicine.
What is the Precision Health Cloud (PHC)?
The cloud provides unlimited data storage as well as instantaneous access to incredible computing power. This allows us to assemble huge data sets into a massive data lake that covers not only the new “omics” data but classical electronic medical records, real-time data streams from wearable devices, and patient-reported information.
Cloud-based machine learning systems make it possible to apply advanced artificial intelligence to this data in order to identify patterns and provide medical decision support.
Precision Health Cloud helps medical providers organise patient data and has been used by America’s largest medical school at the University of Indiana and the Komen Tissue Bank. It helps providers securely aggregate, store and analyse patient data to develop and deliver of precision health treatments. It can be integrated into the EHR, medical devices, images, patient-reported outcomes, genomics and labs.
How is LifeOmic and PHC benefitting healthcare organisations?
Medicine is undergoing a revolution following advances in whole genome sequencing and fundamental breakthroughs in our understanding of how cells work. This revolution has resulted in an explosion of data, especially with the various “omics” such as genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics.
Current data systems are hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with these huge data sets that can easily exceed hundreds of gigabytes per patient. The LifeOmic cloud platform allows organisations to efficiently aggregate all this data and use it to pinpoint disease and find optimal therapies, even for complex conditions such as cancer.
The Indiana University School of Medicine and Indiana University Health are leveraging this platform to pinpoint the mutations driving patients’ cancers and thereby identify the optimal course of treatment.
How do you see the field of precision medicine evolving in the future?
The cost of genetic sequencing is dropping rapidly. The UK is already thinking about performing a whole genome sequencing on every child at birth. In the aftermath of the Human Genome Project, our understanding of the genetic basis of disease is advancing rapidly.
With the massive analytical capabilities afforded by the cloud and breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, we stand at the precipice of a new age of highly personalised medical care.
For example, instead of treating cancer with highly toxic chemotherapy that indiscriminately kills dividing cells, we can now offer cancer patients more targeted therapies that wipe out cancer cells without affecting their normal counterparts. Precision medicine offers the hope of a more individualised approach that can detect and treat diseases at a much earlier stage than is possible today.
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