Personalized medicine could mean big business for D.C …

Posted: June 1, 2015 at 7:48 am

The American health-care industrys pivot to personalized medicine has attracted the interest of an unlikely group of companies government contractors.

As health-care providers explore this new model of treatment, which involves the study of the human genome to provide personalized care, they face a problem with which many in government are familiar: analyzing an overwhelming amount of data.

Were literally drowning in data, said Norman Sharpless, an oncologist and director of the University of North Carolinas Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The amount of information generated from sequencing human genes is growing at a rapid clip, and it has triggered a rush of clinical trials aimed at linking that knowledge to medical treatment. Cataloguing all this new information requires computational power and sophisticated analysis, Sharpless said.

For IT contractors, many of which are based in the Washington region, the flood of information presents a simple business opportunity: The same skills used to crunch massive amounts of data for cyberthreats or warfare intelligence can be applied to personalized medicine.

The governments growing interest in this field also is a factor.

In his State of the Union speech this year, President Obama outlined an initiative to explore the uses of precision medicine. His budget includes a request for $215million to fund research in this area. The White House also hired its first chief data scientist, DJ Patil, who has made precision medicine one of his priorities.

Many contractors, especially those in information technology, have been eager to pursue opportunities in precision medicine as they look to add lines of business to make up for cuts in other parts of the federal budget as overall spending slows.

That is why so many different kinds of businesses including defense giants Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, and cloud storage providers such as Amazon Web Services and Google are getting in on the game.

Lockheed Martin announced a partnership this year with Illumina, a San Diego company that provides relatively inexpensive genome sequencing technology, to study the DNA of populations and develop personalized health-care solutions. For Illumina, the partnership offered access to Lockheeds experience in managing large-scale information systems, Alex Dickinson, Illuminas senior vice president of strategic initiatives, said at the time.

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