Pathologists: Big data's next 'rock stars'?

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As healthcare and medicine become early adopting leaders in big data, despite concerns that privacy issues would slow them down, pathologists are now getting their moment in the sun.

Mark Boguski, associate professor of pathology at the Center for Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School and member of the department of pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said big data analytics will be required for translational medicine to succeed in what he calls the "Third Wave of Genetic Medicine." He said that pathologists are positioned to become the "rock stars" of big data analytics, as big computing power becomes increasingly important for all medical laboratories.

Boguski wrote in December's "Future Medicine" that the first wave of medical genomics occurred in the mid-to-late 1990s during the "pioneer period" of the Human Genome Project and led to overly optimistic expectations about the development of abundant new drugs.

The second wave of medical genomics ushered in the genome era in medicine in 2007 though genome-wide association studies that linked common genetic polymorphisms to the risks of developing complex (multifactorial) human diseases.

This third wave was triggered by sharp declines in the cost of next-generation DNA sequencing technologies and now falls clearly within the realm of laboratory medicine and pathology, he said.

Boguski calls pathologists the physician custodians of laboratory testing and the diagnostic enablers of clinical medicine, both of which clearly fall in the realm of big data.

For more:
- Boguski's editorial

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