What do biology, big data, and UX design have in common?
It turns out that the answer to that can be found in SolveBio, a three year old startup created by a team of innovators spread across multiple disciplines - from programmers, to geneticists to graphic designers - with the goal of making precision medicine techniques more effective for researchers and, ultimately, patients.
Precision medicine is still a relatively new concept in medicine. The fundamental object of precision medicine is to harness the power of high-volume data in order to make more informed decisions when creating patient-specific strategies of treatment. There are three main steps in precision medicine: diagnosing a medical affliction, identifying possible interventions, and determining which intervention will be most effective for that particular patient.
SolveBio appears to have bridged a very important gap in taking precision medicine from concept to reality for the many clients who use it. Their innovative platform applies the fundamentals of UI/UX design to the often-overwhelming world of big data - allowing users to contextualize the mass amounts of data they need in a way that makes it actionable.
Too much data, too little frame of reference
“We see a lot of customers who struggle trying to get their heads around all the data that is available,” says Marano. “There is data about patients who do respond to a particular treatment, and data about patients who don’t respond to that treatment, and data about what is similar within these groups of patients who do or do not respond to the treatment. The next step is to ask ourselves, ‘how can we use this knowledge to create a more effective treatment?’”
In order to have a full understanding of the data you’re looking at, Marano explains, you must be able to contextualize that information.
He uses a simple example to illustrate this concept: if you have 10 apples and there are only 15 apples in the world, you have a lot of apples! But if you have 10 apples and there are 1 million apples in the world, the context of this data has changed mightily. For the same reason, it becomes very important for SolveBio users to contextualize the data they have.
Each and every data set has a huge value on its own, and SolveBio intends to multiply this value by allowing users to link different rich data sets. With SolveBio, users have access to an environment where they can explore across the data they already have (internal and external) and look at the data in an easy-to-read format that gives them more direction and actionable advice than if they had just looked at the data without context.
Streamlining the development of new health interventions
SolveBio, which was founded as a knowledge contextualization organization, offers its clients several tools to streamline their data mining for purposes of precision medicine. Through its HIVE network of PhD contractors and data curators, customers can request on-demand data sets that can be manipulated for different genetic variables and factors, allowing researchers and doctors to more easily arrive at a precision medicine strategy. Its MESH intelligence interface leverages design and UX technology to create an easy-to-use, intuitive web-based platform that is designed to allow scientists in the life sciences industry to retrieve and explore information and insights that come from linking vast amounts of clinical genomic data. Their offerings also include a “curation and assessment toolkit”, which automates as much of the data assessment process as possible, leaving the client free to focus on making critical judgements that only an expert can.
The overarching promise of precision healthcare is to more quickly and more effectively define the right treatments for the right patients so that medical interventions can be brought to market more quickly.
Marano explains: “What has become more and more obvious is that the process of creating a new form of medical treatment is getting longer and more expensive, with a pretty high failure rate since drug discovery began. It takes about 1.5 billion dollars and a dozen years for researchers to get a pill into an FDA-approved bottle. When you look at the time, resources, and opportunity costs of creating a new medical intervention and the fact that the success rate hasn’t improved much in 20 years, there is a huge opportunity for streamlining this process while also making medications/diagnostics/treatments more effective for the end-user: the patient.”
Though they may not be the company’s clients, patients are the bottom line for SolveBio. Says Marano, “We [at SolveBio] all do this because we want to make a positive influence on society and healthcare. For us, the real value comes when you’re able to see how you contributed to something that helped a patient get the best care as possible, as quickly as possible. If we can do this, we’ll know we’ve succeeded in our goals.”
SolveBio has proven its commitment to the vision of how precision medicine can impact healthcare. Their data contextualization tools have been playing a greater role in how companies work with their data in a way that will have a tangible impact on drug discovery and diagnostics processes, and this is what excites their team: “We recognize that what we are doing is extremely impactful. That’s what gets us up and out of bed each morning, that’s what gets us excited.”
Aptly named, Enclothed Cognition is the official Medelita blog for medical professionals interested in topics relevant to a discerning and inquisitive audience. Medelita was founded by a licensed clinician who felt strongly about the connection between focus, poise and appearance.