We constantly hear about programs such as Race for the Cure, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Ice Bucket Challenge, and other fundraising or awareness initiatives for diseases. However, hearing a disease has been cured almost never happens. With billions of dollars being used to research diseases around the world, many people started looking for reasons as to why more progress hasn’t been made. Researchers re-examined their processes and realised two things. First, research methods have been largely unchanged in many disease-fighting fields. Foundations, doctors and researchers would conduct studies independent from any other group studying the same disease and draw conclusions from their limited data set.
One example of this was Parkinson’s disease, whereindividual doctors instinctively measured the progression of symptoms during well visits. “Nearly 200 years after Parkinson’s disease was first described by Dr. James Parkinson in 1817, we are still subjectively measuring Parkinson’s disease largely the same way doctors did then,” said Todd Sherer, Ph.D., CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation. With few data points and poor collection of that data, Parkinson’s researchers weren’t able to see trends in the data or delve into what treatments were making a positive effect.
The second realisation was that cloud technology was the perfect vehicle to share patient data with other researchers. Big data has been called the “next big tech disrupter” and many companies were already using big data to identify customer trends. Similarly, the scientific community started implementing the cloud to collect data and discover trends in patient and genetic data. Today, the Michael J. Fox Foundation is working on collecting the “world’s largest collection of data about life with Parkinson’s” via smart watches that upload patient data directly to the cloud.