10 Reasons Why Biotech Needs Big Data

Tools

Data rules in biotech, and such has been the case for decades. Yet a series of breakthroughs in genomics and computing over the past several years have compounded the amounts of data available to scientists by many factors; now the biotech industry faces fantastic opportunities and challenges from Big Data.

Big Data generates a ton of buzz because many different industries and companies have hitched their futures to their ability to harness and derive value from unimaginable amounts of digital data. In biotech, DNA sequencing data is perhaps the poster child of the Big Data frenzy, with fast-growing troves of complex data on the code of life spawning new openings for bioinformatics outfits and drug developers.

At the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the IT group supports more than 50 different bioinformatics tools for studying biological data, some of which qualify as Big Data. "We don't have a hard definition of Big Data as there are many aspects to this from the 'volume' to the 'velocity' of the data generated," Martin Leach, chief information officer at the Broad, told FierceBiotechIT via email. "Collectively, we have a 'lot' of data. This includes large datasets from a number of research platforms that are typically [more than] 10 terabytes and ranging to several petabytes."

Imagine the amount of memory on about 125,000 8GB iPhones, and now you start to understand the scale of 1 petabyte.

Yet genomics provides only one of many mountains of Big Data in biotech. Consider the many bottlenecks in drug development--from the slow and tedious process of compound discovery to finding enough of the right patients for clinical trials--and you'll see a new data-driven technology or service promising to ease your pain. Many of these products are unproven, but they offer potential data-enabled fixes to some of the major problems in the biopharma industry.

Below we've rounded up 10 ways huge stockpiles of data and large-scale data analysis are changing the biotech game. We've included some but not all of the major players involved in each trend. That said, feel free to chime in or email me your thoughts on companies or technologies you feel are missing. -- Ryan McBride, Editor (Email | Twitter)