The field of medicine is currently engaged in a process of transformation which will see the rise of personalised treatments based on patient data and the advent of innovative approaches to diagnosis and treatment that draw on large biomedical data sets and on their analysis. One example, realised by members of our consortium, is the proteome analysis method/multiomic forecast set which, developed to a ready-for-use state within a four-month period, enables risk stratification and treatment path allocation in Covid-19. The development process made use of established lab technologies, tried-and-tested algorithms and the existing success of a translational scientific collaboration involving members of the consortium and relating to two current and one prospective EU/ERAPermed network(s) and a regional BMBF initiative on personalised medicine.
The current transformation of medicine has attracted a number of major life science and IT businesses to the field, alongside a proliferation of start-up ventures currently working with great intensity and commitment on new data-driven treatment options. Medicine today finds itself in a situation analogous to that of IT in the 1990s, when digital innovations drew the interest of big business on a grand scale. Back then, US-based businesses were often the ones winning the race for commercial success; one legendary example is the MP3 format, developed in Germany by the Max Planck Society, but first marketed, with resounding impact, by US companies. Now, in the context of the data revolution, we want to help avoid a repeat of this mistake.
In any case – the race is on. Europe in general, and Germany in particular, have many factors to their advantage, and are even ahead of the US (to name an example) in terms of the associated political and regulatory frameworks. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sets out stipulations on the handling of personal data that are binding across Europe, creating a situation very different from that in America. We continue, however, to await the establishment of efficient infrastructure for the collection of large-scale data sets with multidimensional potential uses, which will be available in anonymised form to research and development endeavours.
Our plan is to fill this gap. We intend to set up an interdisciplinary medical network for the collection and digitalisation of all relevant biomedical data, enabling the creation of a data pool on whose various dimensions future research and development projects can draw and which will give Germany and Europe a global advantage in terms of knowledge resources in this vital field of the future.
We intend – put simply – to create the world’s first genuinely ‘smart’ medical data network.
The result of this first-ever attempt to incorporate these data into integrated data sets would be a core multi-omic data set that would open the door to new methods of medical risk prediction, resource allocation in health policy, and treatment management, as well as empowering patients and their doctors to access entirely new types of information on individual medical data.
The endeavour of creating integrated sets of biodata requires a coordinated, collaborative effort involving data protection expertise, medical specialists, basic and life science research, data scientists, hospital management, the biomedical technology industry, IT businesses and political regulators. This scale of interdisciplinary collaboration is currently proving too much even for a tech giant such as Google, whose Google Health project is currently little more than a statement of intent, failing to get off the ground.
Our proposal is therefore, drawing on existing expertise, to launch and implement a pilot project of this type and scale of coordinated interdisciplinary work, which will lay the foundations for the development and later for the marketing of its results. Should the project achieve success, the local region would advance to the status of a key player in this growth market of the future and attract significant contingents of further expertise and businesses from the hi-tech industry.