Big Data, Big Biology, and the ‘Tipping Point’ in Quantified Health: Takeaways from Xconomy’s On-the-Record Dinner

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if your body generates the data, then you own it,” Smarr said. “You might want to license it to somebody else, but you own it. That’s not where we are today.

“I’ve seen so many of these digital transformations over and over again,” Smarr continued. “You go from a data-poor world to a data-rich world, and in the data-rich world your solutions are completely different than in the data-poor world and there’s no way to predict what it’s going to be like in the data-rich world or who’s going to be on first. That’s the way it works.

“Nobody would have thought that Steve Jobs would come up with a way to work file-sharing with the record industry. But he did. And now Apple is worth more than any corporation in the world. But you can’t predict that.

“The point is to start thinking,” Smarr said. “Go to the end of the rainbow. Assume that everybody has data like I do. I’ve got a disk drive from the Craig Venter Institute in Maryland with 35 billion bytes of information, which is the sequencing of all the bacteria in my gut. I sent a little vial of stool to them on dry ice and I got back 35 billion numbers. So start thinking. Everybody has got 35 billion numbers like this, which by the way is more than the human genome.

“I spend all my time thinking, ‘How do I work in a world of rich numbers?’—not ‘How do I keep it from happening?’ So get your mind around the fact that that’s what the whole population is going to be like that, and start looking for business solutions, and legal and ethical solutions in that data-rich world. Because by the time you can actually do anything, that will be the reality for everybody. For some of us, it already is.”

That’s Smarr’s vision of the world of quantified health. From his work as an astronomer to director of a supercomputer center to the Internet and CalIT2, Smarr says his career has always been built around exponentials.

In attendance at the Xconomy dinner—which was sponsored by Alexandria Real Estate Equities, the Latham & Watkins law firm, Ernst & Young, and the TriNet human resources firm—were John Blume of Applied Proteomics, Jon Cohen of Science magazine, David Nelson of Epic Sciences, Larry Smarr of CalIT2, Eric Topol of Scripps Health, Lisa Suennen of the Psilos Group, Drew Senyei of Enterprise Partners, Missy Krasner of Morgenthaler Ventures, Rick Valencia of Qualcomm Life, Peter Ellsworth of the Legler Benbough Foundation, Tom Watlington of Sotera Wireless, Mark Stevenson of Life Technologies, Diego Miralles of Janssen Healthcare Innovation, Laura Shawver of the Clearity Foundation and Cleave Biosciences, Ernsto Ramirez of UCSD’s Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems, Jason Moorhead of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, partners Steven Chinowsky and Barry Clarkson of Latham & Watkins, Doug Regnier and John Clift of Ernst & Young, Shannon Conway and Anthony Pedrotti of TriNet. Xconomy Associate Publisher Jim Edwards and Xconomy San Diego Editor Bruce V. Bigelow also were there.


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2 responses to “Big Data, Big Biology, and the ‘Tipping Point’ in Quantified Health”

  1. Abdallah Al-Hakim says:

    Great article and one that touches on a very important topic for Digital Health.

    Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto recently launched centre of personalized genomics and innovative medicine (CPGIM) which is aims to enables and promote the implementation of personalized health care approach to the diagnosis and treatment of hereditary diseases. The program aims to link the patients, physicians and researchers together to share date and disseminate information.

    It is all exciting work towards getting the most out of “big data” and “big biology”

    For more on CPGIM –