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January 4, 2016

Europe Eyes Big Data for Sustainable Healthcare

A European drug research consortium expects to invest more than $5 billion over the next several years to apply big data techniques to speed up clinical drug trials while developing a sustainable healthcare delivery system.

Under a program dubbed “Big Data for Better Outcomes,” the Innovative Medicines Initiative will distribute grants initially designed to streamline development of new drugs and treatments using big data approaches. The European Union and large European drug manufacturers will provide roughly equal funding to leverage big data for drug development.

According to a report this week in the journal Applied Clinical Testing, drug researchers could initially compete for $100 million in grants under the big data program. Applications for the funding are due in March, the report said.

Projects are expected to focus on areas like identifying promising research areas, improving access to high quality data and cross-platform interoperability. Along with drug development, specific areas for increasing access and use of big data techniques include improving clinical outcomes in patients suffering from heart failure, atrial fibrillation and acute coronary syndrome.

Other funding would focus on developing a big data platform targeting drug development for treating pediatric cancer, organizers said. Another proposed topic would seek to validate imaging methods used to assess drug safety.

The big data effort aims to “catalyze and support the evolution towards value-based and more outcomes-focused sustainable and therefore better quality healthcare systems in Europe, exploiting the opportunities offered by the wealth of emerging data from many evolving data sources by generating methodologies and data that will inform policy debates,” organizers said.

Along with awarding research grants, the initiative would seek to define metrics for measuring better outcomes as well as developing “protocols, processes and tools for accessing high quality data.” Other goals include developing analytics tools and methodologies to drive improvement in clinical outcomes.

A related European Distributed Data Network Project would provide a central repository for drug research information as well as a framework for protecting the privacy of patient data. (European privacy regulations are generally more stringent than current U.S. rules.)

The effort also would create industry standards for collecting, analyzing and managing patient data along with implementing standard data models and frameworks for aggregating data from a variety of sources.

Organizers asserted that the proposed “healthcare system transformation would encompass payments, consider value and support aligned incentives between primary and secondary care moving towards the common goal of superior healthcare delivery and high quality data being made available.

“Therefore the engagement of patient organizations, regulators, payers, providers and other public stakeholders throughout the [big data] program is essential to ensure findings from those projects have appropriate buy-in and ultimately deliver real impact in transforming healthcare systems,” they added.

Ultimately, the government-industry initiative expects to develop a “more outcomes-focused and sustainable healthcare systems in Europe, exploiting the opportunities offered by big and deep data sources.”


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