I look forward to the list of expectatons and predictions for 2014 coming out in the different press outlets, what books, films and music will we all fall for in 2014. But even more importantly for us as we move to 2014 is to do a little horizon scanning of what ‘elements’ will impact on the role we are here to support delivery of in 2014, and if we can how do we get ready for it.
New technology innovations have been spoken about a great deal in the run up to the turn of the New Year. Light weight curved glass, drone delivery of internet shopping and the digital currency revolution to name but three that have hit the press as exciting innovations for 2014, but more importantly for us is to consider what innovations in clinical provision and research do we need to build capacity, capability and systems to support.
A subject that has been hitting the news in December and January is how do we stop the march towards antibiotic immunity, most importantly for us is what does a research programme look like that can deliver solutions for this problem. My simple technology response to this is to speed up access to data for researchers to find new innovative ways that, with the patient consent in place, information can become derived from the point of care or directly from the patient. Without the veracity of information and an easy way for patients to provide consent this problem will be difficult to conduct research into it and therefore is a problem we need to consider offering help to resolve. Providing tools and standards to the research networks to help support this is a key consideration for 2014.
The next most talked about innovation in clinical research is the arrival of stratified medicine. Stratified medicine describes an approach in which specific clinical characteristics are used to predict therapeutic response, allowing delivery of the most effective and safe treatment pathway for patients.
For research this means looking at large groups of patients to try and find ways of predicting which treatments they are likely to respond to. It involves looking in detail at disease areas and their genetic make up. Researchers want to find out if some treatments are more likely to work in specific diseases and what particular changes to the patients genes disease and treatment brings about.
This is one step towards something referred to as personalised medicine. Personalised medicine uses genetic and other information to diagnose and treat disease. Once we have carried out research with large groups of patients, we may be able to predict response to treatments. Then we hope we will be able to tailor treatment very precisely to an individual person’s illness. The compute power to research this area is significant, projects like those being developed by Genomics England will lead the way in 2014 and will be at the forefront of releasing benefits to patients, the NHS and Life Sciences Industry to ensure that personalised medicine can be made an efficient reality. Our organisation has a role in delivering this type of research, ensuring that the appropriate researchers are available to offer their skills in this area and wherever possible offering tools to help manage the delivery of this portfolio of research delivery.
The trend for opening up data continues to be pushed across the digital world. The Life Sciences industry is keen to follow this example where ever it is safe and appropriate to do so.
Whilst obviously a controversial figure Julian Assange referenced two key principles to opening up data in a recent interview for Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen’s book The New Digital Age. Firstly he states that human civilisation is built upon our complete intellectual record; thus the record should be as large as possible to shape our time and inform the future. Secondly he goes on to say, because different elements could seek to pervert the truth it is in everyone’s best interest to get as much information as possible into an open record that is accessible and searchable for all. In the last year we have taken great strides in opening up and linking the data we have as a networked organisation, enabling the networks to have access to a wider information set and therefore meet both of the principles above. In 2014 the challenge will be in the opening up of appropriate data to a wider audience, providing the necessary checks and balances in doing so and ensuring the appropriate use of it
Sharing our information is linked to the principles of open data but is subtly different for us. Sharing meta data or reference data is a piece of work that has been started in 2013 and will come to fruition in 2014. The delivery of services that share appropriate meta data about clinical research in England will further smooth the path to setting up research in England, facilitating smooth contact points with the life sciences industry and ensuring that data quality is improved across the global economy.
What else is on the horizon, the leap forward in operational systems and their capability is clear across our organisation, the business change this will enable is less clear but we have the understanding of what we want to get to and the right resource in place to react positively to change. I always said that Information Technology and Systems ought to be the stabilising agent to change rather than the catalyst for it, but, innovation in 2014 looks more and more likely to be the catalyst and the agent, and that innovation will ask new questions of us that we must be able to answer.