Blogging from BIO 2018: Preparing for Convergence

It is the last day of Bio 2018 and I am attending a curiously titled session:  Is Biotechnology Drowning in Health Related Data?   The panel’s answer to that question is “no” — in fact, they all agreed there isn’t enough data yet, if we want to achieve “convergence”.  That’s the new buzz word:  convergence.  One speaker described it as “a better quantification of humanity.”  MIT has an entire web site devoted to “convergence”.  And our local NRP station just did a whole segment on it.  Just what is “convergence”?  It’s the integration and sharing of methods and ideas by scientists across multiple fields and industries (but particularly data scientists and life scientists) in order to solve the world’s most pressing problems (but particularly health care problems like cancer and aging).  Convergence is going to rely on huge data sets and artificial intelligence, which means it also will have huge privacy and data security issues.  These issues were acknowledged by the panel; they puzzled over how to collect and integrate data from myriad sources:  wearable devices, genetic testing, medical records, and clinical trials.  Given the need to feed convergence with data, we are going to have to come up with answers to these privacy and security challenges, such as how to secure patient consent repeatedly, but also quickly and inexpensively.  HIPAA made some progress in that regard, but now we have taken a step back with the implementation of GDPR.  Maybe we can get some answers at BIO 2019 in Philadelphia….


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