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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Eric Topols's NIH grant for Precision Medicine & Health Informatics Research

I have tried to read Eric Topol's classic books on digital medicine:  "The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Hands" and the "Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Healthcare" but my local libraries don't seem to carry them. Not in the habit of buying every book I want to read on Amazon. I think Dr. Topol was a keynote at a nearby eHealth conference not long ago. Instead of attending, I subscribed to his Twitter feed which is well worth a look if you are not already inundated with more information feeds than a human could possibly digest in one lifetime.

The biggest news to come from Dr. Topol I may have first read in the San Diego Union Tribune, a news source I normally would never dream of reading, but for various disparate reasons (or algorithms) came to my attention from sundry WWW news sources. In fact I probably first read about it on the good doctors' Twitter posts.  Here is the link to the San Diego article, but it soon became apparent that the RSS was broadly distributed internationally. The Scripps Translational Research Institute, where Professor Topol works, just happens to be in San Diego:
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/jul/06/NIH-scripps-topol/

The NIH doesn't often dole out $120 million grants for research. The last I heard of a grant with that largess was for research on the artificial brain, and I even blogged about that.  What I have not blogged about is precision medicine, which is defined well in this NIH Medline Plus article.  I am kind of wondering if precision medicine is just a plain English way of saying translational bioinformatics and health informatics all rolled into one.

This research project, that involves tapping into the blood samples, DNA, social media, health apps, sensor data, Big Data analytics and health records of a million volunteers, reminds me of  The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. It certainly does bring to mind a classic in health informatics and epidemiologial research - The Framingham Heart Study of 1948 - which is still providing data for researchers. One can only imagine how the data generated from this research will be analyzed sixty years from now. Artificial Intelligence tools like IBM Watson and Alpha Go, which will probably be employed to help the data scientists, are just in the teething stage, compared to what their exponential computer grandchildren will be able to byte off.