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Exploring the Frontiers of Data and Analytics for Precision Medicine

10/03/2018

The frontiers of data sciences and real-world data represent promising areas of innovation and possibility for life sciences and health-care organizations - especially within precision medicine. These areas are continuously evolving, and there are questions about how to navigate this complex and rapidly evolving set of resources, capabilities, and organizations.

This webinar, in partnership with the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator at the Harvard Business School, aims to provide a landscape of the organizations working in real-world data and advanced analytics, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, and provide commentary on the recent changes to the space. It will introduce attendees to the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator and teach them about real world data analytics technologies and data assets that may help advance their research agendas, determine the subject of collaborations, or serve as an investment target.

Speakers include:

  • Kathy Giusti, Executive Chairman, Board of Directors, Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation; Senior Fellow and Co-Chair, the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator at the Harvard Business School
  • Gabriel Eichler, Founder and Managing Director, Oak Health Partners; Data & Analytics Workstream Lead, Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator at the Harvard Business School
  • Tanisha Carino, Executive Director, FasterCures, a center of the Milken Institute (moderator)

Learn more about the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator by visiting their website. 

 

Summary

On Oct. 3, FasterCures, a center of the Milken Institute, partnered with the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator at the Harvard Business School to present a webinar entitled “Exploring the Frontiers of Data and Analytics for Precision Medicine.”

The goal of the webinar was not only to introduce attendees to the Accelerator but also to highlight its landscape of organizations working in real-world data and advanced analytics to support precision medicine, including artificial intelligence and machine learning.

With so many changes and innovations occurring in the space in recent years, the webinar provided an opportunity for reflection on where the field of data for precision medicine has been and where it needs to go in order to meet the needs of patients across disease areas.

Setting the stage for data and precision medicine

FasterCures Executive Director Tanisha Carino opened the discussion by explaining why the work of the Accelerator is significant to FasterCures and the health-care field at large.

The role of personal health data is critical to any effort to advance precision medicine. Over the last year, FasterCures has introduced Health Data Basics, a project developed to engage patients with their health information and to help enable the two-way flow of health data between patients and the health-care system. Despite the numerous sources of health information being gathered at regular intervals, there are currently many challenges for patients and caregivers; the majority of individuals still do not have the resources to fully utilize their data in meaningful ways.

Carino introduced webinar speakers Kathy Giusti (Executive Chairman, Board of Directors, Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation [MMRF]; Senior Fellow and Co-Chair, the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator at the Harvard Business School) and Gabriel Eichler (Founder and Managing Director, Oak Health Partners; Data & Analytics Workstream Lead, Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator at the Harvard Business School).

Giusti has been a friend of FasterCures for over a decade. The MMRF, which Giusti founded, is a pioneer in the field of venture philanthropy and has been involved in FasterCures’ network of organizations innovating in that space. 

Eichler has spent the last 15 years working to apply health-care technologies to problems in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry and the delivery of health care. He was formerly the vice president of products at GNS Healthcare. Prior to that, he managed several global client programs at PatientsLikeMe, focusing on patient-centered research and real-world outcomes.

An introduction to the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator

The overall goal of the Accelerator is to focus on how new incentives can drive great models in precision medicine. Giusti and her team started their work by looking at the greatest roadblocks facing precision medicine. Their hope is to devise sustainable solutions to these issues and disseminate them through impactful groups such as FasterCures in order to build a strong landscape of organizations innovating in precision medicine.

After many meetings with leaders in precision medicine to decide where they should focus their time, the Accelerator identified four highly integrated work streams: Direct to Patient, Data & Analytics, Innovative Trials, and Investment/Venture. Giusti explained that all four work streams are highly integrated. The Accelerator seeks to bring together many voices to focus on these four areas of need and collectively push precision medicine forward.

Analyzing the Accelerator’s real-world data landscape in oncology  

Eichler’s presentation was broken into two parts: 1) an overview of the Accelerator’s real-world data landscape and 2) a look at data analytics companies doing innovative work in the space.

To set the stage for his work in the Data & Analytics workstream of the Accelerator, Eichler made note that a useful recipe for anyone looking to create data-driven insights is: a well-defined question + a rich data source + an aptly applied, innovative analytical method. What comes out of this model is not answers, but hypotheses. Eichler stated that these hypotheses are useful in and of themselves and that no one walks away from these projects with all the answers, but rather a new place to start. 

In 2016, the Accelerator looked at sources of real-world data across the landscape of oncology. Since then, many things have changed in the space—new data assets have been made available, new registries and platform trials have been started, and massive investments have been made in oncology. As such, the Accelerator decided to look at the landscape again in 2018.  

They focused a little differently while conducting the 2018 landscape and were interested in who is integrating molecular, clinical, and longitudinal data assets in the oncology. While talking to Academic medical centers (AMCs) and organizations collecting data, Eichler had an insight. Many people think of AMCs as having neat, accessible, clean, and ready-to go data assets. The reality is that we should think of AMC data more like a field of wild flowers rather than a pre-made bouquet—disbursed, complex, and often inaccessible. Eichler noted that funding is sometimes necessary on the AMC side to reap and harvest this data to be able to answer real research questions.

Overall, the Accelerator team noted several reflections while comparing the 2016 landscape to 2018’s:

  • Real-world assets are growing in size and sophistication: And patient registries have some of the richest data on specific diseases.
  • Sharing and linking models are winning: Acknowledging the need to link is a real positive in the field.
  • Willingness to share and link data are rising: While there may be technical and privacy issues to address, many companies are moving to this methodology.
  • The frontiers of real-world data are advancing: There are improved data standards and patient re-contact rights and mechanisms that are enabling additional research opportunities.

Leaders among real-world data analytics companies

Data analytics companies have been thrilling to watch in recent years. There is tremendous promise for what AI can do in health care, but Eichler warned that despite the barrage of headlines indicating an exciting future for the space, we should be careful not to get ahead of ourselves. To get an accurate take on what these companies are working on and indicate the emerging leaders in the field, the Accelerator put together a landscape of the top data analytics companies.  

The objective in building the landscape was to reach stakeholders (investors, researchers, non-profits, hospitals/care centers, payers, and patients) with key questions (Where are advanced analytics being most applied? Whom should I invest in? Is it best to build vs. buy vs. partner? When may these technologies be ready for real-world applications?).

They broke down this space into three key areas where AI is being applied (pre-clinical R&D, clinical research, and clinical care) and looked at 46 companies that met their criteria.

After creating this list, they looked at how these organizations were experiencing or demonstrating recent acceleration in their business through financing, job growth, and open positions. They also looked at the establishment of the organizations including publications, partnerships, and overall financing.  

While looking at how established these organizations were and how they were accelerating, Kraft noted the diversity in competencies of companies at different levels of maturity and development. When segmented out on the two-by-two matrix above, it was clear that some companies are industry-standard, highly established organizations, but are not accelerating rapidly. Others are just emerging, having tremendous growth but without much establishment.

Among these patterns, the Accelerator was most interested in companies that reside in the top right-hand quadrant of the above matrix: Hot Companies. These organizations have size and acceleration. Eichler commented that they are the most interesting companies to watch because they are breaking out of the mold and innovating in exciting ways.

Eichler detailed their key findings from this landscape:

  • Tremendous investments: These companies have raised more than $1.4 billion.
  • Diverse platform capabilities: Many companies are applying technologies to multiple use-cases.
  • Paradigm-shifting potential: These companies are young and will take a few years to mature; they have the potential to define the type of stories that will be use-cases for the future of health care.

Where precision medicine is going next

The webinar closed with some time for questions and answers, primarily revolving around the actionable next steps for those funding, conducting, or investing in research and development.

Giusti reiterated that the Accelerator is a huge believer in the data space and where it is going. In order to validate what they want to keep working on, they have to know what other data sets are still out there and whether AI companies have the resources to work with them. Giusti said that the field is in constant need of new data and new AI companies.

Eichler commented that all organizations, especially philanthropies, are trying to figure out their role and how they can bring real-world data into the mix. There is no shortage of challenges in trying to define the right questions to ask. The work that MMRF and others are doing to define, prioritize, and ask the key questions in their disease are going to unlock the most progress in helping patients.

In closing, Carino reminded the audience that precision medicine is where all diseases are headed. The Accelerator and FasterCures will continue their work to catalyze innovation in this space and look forward to collaborating on future endeavors to benefit patients everywhere.

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