Imagine a world where an oncologist can personalize cancer treatment for every patient by choosing drugs targeted to the genetic profile of a patient’s tumor cells. That is fast becoming a reality, and a demonstration at Digital Disruption in San Jose later this month will show how communications service providers can help facilitate the exchange of information that makes personalized medicine possible.
Digital Disruption attendees will get to see how the tranSMART Foundation, an open source collaborative community to address the problem of integrating data from clinical observations with molecular research data from the genomics world, is creating an environment where pharmaceutical companies and their partners, such as universities and medical centers, can share data, information and results to help find cures for patients.
The tranSMART Foundation is a non-profit membership-driven corporation founded by the Pistoia Alliance, the University of Michigan, the Imperial College London and Seneca Creek Research with the mission of enabling effective sharing, integration, standardization and analysis of heterogeneous data from collaborative translational research. The idea is to merge clinical and research data so that scientists and physicians can create biomarkers that can be used to confirm diagnoses of disease and, even more importantly, to find cures that will work for specific patients. The group is working with a software platform originally developed by Johnson & Johnson and later contributed to the open source community.
TranSMART released Version 1.1 of the community-enhanced software platform last month, a platform that has been built from the ground up as a cloud-based application. While companies can choose to run the platform internally, tranSMART is betting that many organizations will want to take advantage of cloud services. BT Global Services is the first cloud provider to support Version 1.1 of the platform, but tranSMART is hoping to find other service provider partners as well.
“More and more of the translational research done by pharmaceutical companies is done with outside partners,” says Michael Braxenthaler, PhD, Co-Chief Executive Officer of tranSMART. “The cloud is a good environment to make it easier for them to work together on issues of integrating and analyzing the data.”
A key goal for the foundation is building a vibrant community around the platform and expanding it beyond the pharmaceutical and biotech spaces into nonprofits, academic organizations and medical communities, which is where TM Forum can help by educating its members about tranSMART’s work and its need for secure cloud services.
Rancho BioSciences, a company that curates data for the tranSMART project, is hosting the platform for some customers using Amazon Web Services and will demo tranSMART at Digital Disruption on that platform.
As part of the demonstration, Julie Bryant, founder and CEO, Rancho BioSciences, will show a case study dealing with multiple sclerosis (MS). Today there is no biomarker panel for MS, but Rancho BioSciences has been working with the Orion Bionetworks Alliance and the Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis, who have collected 30 million data points on thousands of MS patients, to help discover the genetic makeup for MS and the different variations of the disease.
“We see some people who have a really aggressive form of MS, whereas others may have a form of the disease that comes and goes for decades,” Bryant explains. “We’re trying to figure out what is it that makes the aggressive form different from the slower form.”
In order to make those kinds of discoveries, Rancho BioSciences first has to curate, or clean up, all of the data that’s been collected, which is no small feat. In the case of the MS project, it took about 6 months of work by PhD-level scientists and medical doctors sifting through millions of bits of data to make it uniform and useful.
“As a community we want to be able to create panels of biomarkers that show when this gene is turned on the person will have an aggressive form of MS or diabetes or cancers,” Bryant says. With breast cancer, for example, there are at least 18 different sub-types, so using a person’s genetic makeup can help determine which drugs will be most effective for treatment for them.
“This is where treatment starts getting personalized,” Bryant says. “We all know someone who has these diseases, and I think that’s what keeps us motivated to keep searching for targeted cures.”
Ultimately, projects like tranSMART represent a huge opportunity for communications service providers because of the vast amount of information that has to be collected, stored and ultimately shared.
“We need bigger pipes to move the data around because the files are so big, and we need more secure services to exchange the information,” Bryant explains. “This data is only going to get bigger, and we need cloud technology to help facilitate the storage and movement of it.”
The tranSMART demo at Digital Disruption will take place at the group’s kiosk in the Disruption Zone adjacent to the Innovation Theater and near the TM Forum Zone. Companies interested in meeting with tranSMART or RanchoBiosciences while at the conference may contact Bryant via Julie@RanchoBioSciences.com.
By Dawn Bushaus