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The Theme - Biomedical Research

(Harvard University - Joyce Yang)


The ** EITA-Bio ** Workshop

 "Recent Advances in Biomedical Research and ICT Research"




In the 21st century, groundbreaking research and discovery in the Biomedical Research are more interdisciplinary than ever. Biomedical Research represents the (basic and applied) research activities in the areas of Medicine, Public Health, Pharmacology, Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Statistics, Engineering, New Materials, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and Health-related topics. These scientists work to understand the biological principles that govern the function of the human body, to discover the mechanisms of disease, and to find innovative ways to treat or cure disease by developing advanced diagnostic tools or new therapeutic strategies for physicians - especially new smart devices that could help transform the detection, prevention, and management of disease. The increased longevity of humans over the past century can be significantly attributed to advances resulting from Biomedical Sciences Research. We’re at the cusp of a major revolution in understanding the workings of the human body. According to Google Ventures, the following top eight life sciences technologies are the most promising and will transform medicine: Artificial Intelligence, Understanding the Brain, Reinventing Antibiotics, Battling Cancer, Genetic Repair, Understanding the Microbiome, Organ Generation, and Stem Cells. For example, stem cell research has the potential to revolutionize the way we treat many conditions, including degenerative diseases for which few effective treatments currently exist. Stem cell research is rapidly advancing towards potential therapeutic applications such as tissue and organ replacement, disease modelling and drug testing. Dr. Aaron Ciechanover, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2004, characterizes 21st century medicine with four P’s: it’s personalized, predictive, preventive – and it should be participatory.

The rise of new media has increased communication between people all over the world and the Internet. It allows people to on-demand (cloud computing) access to content anytime, anywhere, on any digital device, as well as interactive user feedback, and creative participation. In addition, new media allows the real-time generation of new, unregulated content, including (at least for now) Internet, blogs, websites, computer multimedia (e.g., medical audio or speech, real-time or recorded video, high resolution still image, and so forth), pictures, and other user-generated media. The physical world is becoming a type of information system. The vision of “Internet of Things (IoT)” with more than 50 to 200 billion connected devices (containing embedded sensors and actuators, etc.), linked through (often using the same Internet Protocol (IP) that connects the Internet) wired and wireless networks by year 2020, will see profound changes in the way people, businesses and the society interact (IoT can function via wireless sensor networks or RFID). The expression of connectivity through sensors and devices will soon become as commonplace as social media is today. However, one of the central-most challenges facing IoT (still very immature, and a long way to go) is the enablement of seamless interoperability between each connection (i.e., lack of interoperability at the application level). It is clearly time to consider how to expand the IoT beyond product silos into Web-scale open ecosystems based on open standards, including those for identification, discovery, and service interoperability across platforms from different vendors. The Web will enable a transition from costly monolithic software to open markets of apps. "The Web of Things (WoT) vision", going beyond the Internet of Things and where real world objects and cloud services interact through the Web, will produce large volumes of data related to the physical world, and intelligent solutions are required to enable connectivity, inter-networking, and relevance between the physical world and the corresponding digital world resources. The use of Web technologies is expected to dramatically reduce the cost for implementing and deploying IoT services. Correspondingly, WoT brings into focus a wide variety of challenges and opportunities while paving a way to a variety of exciting applications for individuals to industries. The reality of a hyper-connected world is here today.

Life sciences and ICT are coming together to revolutionize scientific and medical discovery; comprising: acquisition, transmission, processing, storage and retrieval of biomedical and health information. With today’s high-throughput sequencing technology, it’s much easier to generate genomic data than to transform it into information or knowledge that can improve human health. We are at the beginning of the genomics revolution. The promise of genomics is to revolutionize treatment of disease, to personalize treatment. The unprecedented abundance of medically relevant data (e.g. molecular, cellular, organismal, ecological, behavioral, clinical), from detailed information about genes and genetic diseases and the relative efficacy of drugs in diverse patient populations, to three-dimensional imaging of living cells giving researchers a more detailed and accurate spatial visualization of the interplay of cells and their components, is driving the use of quantitative methods in medicine. For example, recent advances have made 3D imaging (e.g., enabling 3D images of living organisms to be obtained with greater speed and precision) a valuable tool for many applications, such as cell biology, developmental biology, neuroscience and cancer research. These new approaches will improve our understanding of finding better diagnostics, treatments and therapies for diseases. Another example, we are currently struggling to find the right information either about lifestyle or therapeutic decisions. This could change with cognitive computing. Like a human, a cognitive computing application learns by experience and/or instruction. By applying the advanced cognitive computing capabilities (cognitive-based systems), patients and providers benefit from more rapid and thorough analysis to translate DNA insights, understand a person’s genetic profile and gather relevant information from medical literature to personalize treatment options for patients. Providers will also share knowledge they glean from treating patients. This is key. In the era of Electronic Health Records, it is possible to examine the decision outcomes made by doctors. By enabling researchers at the institutions to mine a much larger store of data (i.e., Big Data), they can more easily spot patterns and identify best practices.

Mobile revolution has changed everything. The next generation of wireless networks, the ‘fifth generation’ or 5G, will change the way we communicate, the way we do business, the way we do everything! The impact of 5G will extend well beyond telecommunications: by connecting people, machines and things on a massive scale. The 5G wireless technology will provide the backbone for IoT (e.g., Health IoT) that greatly improves data transfer speeds and processing power over its predecessors. This combination of speed and computing power will enable new applications for mobile technologies, especially in health care. 5G networks open up new avenues for the delivery of health care. Instead of bringing patients to a doctor for treatment, 5G networks can connect patients and doctors from across the globe. Digital imaging can be sent anywhere in the world for analysis, expanding access for patients who live far away from health care providers. With ubiquitous mobile broadband-enabled internet access, connectivity and networking are becoming completely independent of location. The rapid evolution of wireless technologies coupled with advances in related fields such as biosensor design, low power battery operated systems, diagnosing and reporting for intelligent information management, genome sequencing, and advances in analytic software, etc. has opened up many new applications for wireless systems in medicine (uHealth – ubiquitous Health). With the inclusion of Electronic Health Care, Point-of-Care technologies, E-Health and M-Health protocols, and personalized healthcare/medicine, the medical informatics area is entering into another era of massive amount of information. The medical and health care information databases would lead to new knowledge bases, discoveries in medical research, engineering oriented developments and clinical translational research and practices. Data sharing is reaping huge rewards in the fight against cancer too. At the individual level, health tracker apps on our mobile devices are sending data to health care providers to improve patient care and provide early-warning signs in at-risk patients. Early detection and monitoring is critical to mounting effective cancer treatments (and speed is critical because cancer treatment is a race against fast-replicating cells.). By combining implantable cancer detectors (using new methods in molecular imaging and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technologies) with wireless data transmission technologies, new tools and emerging technologies for continuous monitoring during and after cancer treatment to signal remission and relapse or even trigger micro-scale drug delivery systems for automatic therapeutic interventions are on the horizon. 

The convergence of several trends -- wider adoption of electronic medical records, advances in mobile technology, and payment reform -- is accelerating the pace of change in how healthcare is delivered. A revolution in healthcare is quietly brewing. The age of digital health/medicine is here. Social media and mobile devices have swiftly become more ubiquitous in the healthcare industry and integrated into daily life (for example, our incessant need for instantaneous medical diagnoses via the web). And digital health tools like smartphones certainly do make it easier. As patients continue to gain access and share healthcare information (such as sleep patterns, heart rate, activity levels, blood oxygen, glucose levels, and even stress, etc.) through various forms of online media (such as via a smartphone, smartband, or glucose monitor, etc.), healthcare organizations have started to use social media (i.e., Internet-based applications) to better connect with patients and their community on a wide range of healthcare issues. This initiative could appeal to anyone with an interest in a healthier lifestyle or, more specifically, to patients who suffer from chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension (high blood pressure). Chronic diseases are long-term medical conditions that are generally progressive and are a significant cause of illness and death. These patients need closer health status monitoring and the study of their biometric data could allow physicians to foresee their crises. For example, having an EKG-accurate (Electrocardiogram) monitor strapped to (a mass amount of) wearers (or patients) throughout the day could be hugely beneficial to the study of heart disease. Accurate EKG data generated throughout a normal day and having the data collected sent automatically to scientists and doctors, combined with other metrics, could help researchers understand more about heart performance. Software could be used to warn users of a heart attack or stroke days in advance. The future versions of Apple Watch heart rate monitor (and other similar watches) could include better technology to aid in this goal. The “Internet of Things and Beyond” will make health monitoring, diagnostics and treatment more personalized (i.e., personalized and precision medicine), timely and convenient, while also lowering costs.

High-performance analytics, high-speed connections and affordable data storage have made large data-sharing projects possible in health care too. New medical breakthroughs as well as the effective management of health care in the future requires the integration of data and methods across the different realms of fundamental research, development of therapeutics (e.g., nanotechnology-based cancer therapeutics), health care practice, and massive high performance computing infrastructure. With these combined data sources from hundreds of studies and dozens of companies, researchers – from large academic institutions, commercial organizations, or small research labs in remote corners of the world – are finding deeper insights than ever before, getting answers faster, reducing duplication of effort and improving efficiency.

The goal will be to care for more people in more affordable and effective ways, and to recognize that health and care management needs (a patient-centric business model) to occur wherever the patient is, not just in hospitals or physician offices.


<updated by hhw: 11/11/16>



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