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Good News: NIH Discovers Data Scientists and The Private Sector

Shaywitz 2.oLate last month, President Obama unveiled a $215 million Precision Medicine initiative, which has won early bipartisan support. The centerpiece of this proposal is an ambitious effort to integrate disparate clinical datasets to advance science and improve health.  The question now is whether the National Institute of Health officials entrusted to carry out this program will seize this opportunity to leverage the thinking and experiences of the entrepreneurs, engineers, and data scientists from the private sector who have been wrestling these sorts of challenges to the ground.  The early indications are encouraging.

(Disclosure/reminder: I work at a cloud-enabled genomic data management company in Mountain View, California.)

Data is the organizing principle of Silicon Valley; the landscape is dotted with companies – from behemoths like FacebookGoogle GOOGL -0.99%, Salesforce, and Palantir to younger entrants like ours – devoted to collecting, analyzing, and collaborating around huge amounts of data, often enabled by cloud computing.

The same engineers who gave us photo sharing, Angry Birds, and smart thermostats are increasingly bringing their talents to healthcare, trying to enable health data sharing, motivate healthy behaviors, and empower elders living at home alone.

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