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Dealing with Data

In a recent article in The Atlantic, David Shaywitz suggests that all medical knowledge should be aggregated into one big database — "a 'big data' project that would collect in one searchable repository all of the parameters that measure or could conceivably reflect human well-being." This would include information on patients ranging from genomic data to details on their microbiome to family history and a record of their medications. Such data would be a boon to physicians, helping them optimize the way they treat their patients, and the data could be used by researchers to find new drug targets, Shaywitz says.

In a new column in Forbes, Shaywitz says biopharma companies might want to try something similar. Many large pharmaceutical companies have outsourced their data analytics, instead doing it themselves, Shaywitz says. "I then ask whether this is savvy judgment or a profound miscalculation," he says, adding that "the question of core competencies is more than just semantics — it is perhaps the most important strategic question facing biopharma companies as they peer into a frightening and uncertain future." Big pharma, Shaywitz says, needs to deal with the large amounts of data it generates itself, especially as the traditional approach to pharmaceutical innovation doesn't seem to be working that well anymore.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.