How crowdsourcing can advance precision medicine programs – Healthcare IT News

Sarah Prezek is a lead associate and project manager at Booz Allen Hamilton. This blog was coauthored with Vishal Thovarai , lead scientist in Booz Allen Hamilton, and Elaine Johanson , director of the health informatics staff under FDA’s Office associated with Data, Analytics, and Research, and program manager of precisionFDA.

Healthcare organizations understand the enormous potential of accuracy medicine. The current one-size-fits-all medical treatments deliver non-uniform results plus often perform poorly for those who do not fit the particular “average patient” health profile.

By considering an individual’s specific wellness attributes, including genomic, environmental  and lifestyle information, medical professionals may better tailor specific remedies that will deliver more successful outcomes.

What if, for example , doctors could better understand which COVID-19 vaccine would carry out best on a particular patient based on their unique health user profile, or gain insights into how to address the multitude of symptoms associated along with long-term COVID?

Enter precision medicine. Advances in this field are already yielding powerful new discoveries and several brand new treatments tailored to specific characteristics, such as a person’s genetic makeup or the genetic profile of a patient’s tumor.  

Many cancer patients already routinely undergo molecular testing as part associated with patient care so that physicians can much better tailor treatments that will improve the chances of survival plus minimize adverse effects.

So how can accuracy medicine developers, regulators, citizen scientists, research teams, small business owners  and healthcare organizations advance the regulatory science needed to ensure the safety and efficacy of regulatory tools? Public crowdsourcing challenges are a good first step.

There are unique results that different groups who respond to precision medicine-related crowdsourcing can achieve. Broadly, crowdsourcing-based outreach is the good method to bring awareness to the particular public plus promote engagement with precision medicine.  

Public crowdsourcing can also encourage competition between precision medicine stakeholder businesses (e. g., pharmaceutical and bioinformatics companies as well as academics) to deliver innovative discoveries like new hereditary markers associated with disease plus accelerate study that may lead to the development of new products from a low cost.  

In turn, crowdsourcing enables these stakeholders in order to validate and showcase their technology. Further, regulators, such as the particular FDA, that ensure the safety plus efficacy associated with precision medication products for the public market  can leverage crowdsourcing to progress precision medicine regulatory science, including encouraging the development of revolutionary tools and methods for assessing product performance and detecting postmarket safety signals.

What is crowdsourcing in accuracy medicine?

Crowdsourcing is a process of proactively engaging a large group of dispersed participants to offer ideas, approaches, analysis, expertise  and other valuable contributions with the particular goal of solving a problem or challenge. By harnessing a global community associated with experts plus scholars and steering them toward a single, specific goal, crowdsourcing is particularly effective with facilitating new discoveries in science plus research – and this has certainly proved to be true inside the groundbreaking field of precision medicine. The NCTR Indel Calling from Oncopanel Sequencing Data Challenge embodies this idea by asking participants to develop, validate  and benchmark indel calling pipelines to identify indels in the oncopanel sequencing datasets (PrecisionFDA, 2022).

As with any brand new field associated with science, precision medicine is constantly evolving, and the technologies it relies upon continue to advance rapidly. In this environment, the associated challenges are numerous and complex; overcoming these types of challenges often requires fresh eyes plus multiple perspectives. This is precisely what crowdsourcing offers.  

And because this field is so new and exciting – with the potential with regard to huge advancements at every turn – this sparks the real interest and energy in scientific communities around the world, generating collective energy and passion that leads to revolutionary crowdsourcing solutions.

Traditionally, medical discoveries are time-consuming and extremely expensive because they require development of a product, clinical trials  and ultimately bringing a product to the market. Crowdsourcing can help accelerate this particular process. This is especially so during the research phase, which is analogous to open-source software along with its relatively unhindered evolution compared with closed/proprietary software counterparts.

Beyond crowdsourcing’s possible for technological discovery, it also has the practical upside of offering a relatively inexpensive way to harness a sizable pool of talent plus expertise through time-boxed events.  

Furthermore, this approach democratizes the entire process of innovation, offering a venue for anyone from small businesses and students to research facilities and corporations in order to compete plus demonstrate their own capabilities in high-visibility challenges, leading to increased opportunities.    

Finally, crowdsourcing will be an efficient way to make hands-on, experiential learning more accessible. By allowing participants in order to test themselves in the real-world experiment or exercise, they can bridge the gap that often exists between studying in academic and practical settings. In this method, crowdsourcing is a great tool regarding bringing conceptual or theoretical ideas in to practice, which usually further refines and advances our group knowledge.  

Real-life applications of crowdsourcing

As mentioned above, a real-life example of crowdsourcing is the precisionFDA NCTR Indel Calling from Oncopanel Sequencing Data Challenge phase one and stage two . Consider exactly how crowdsourcing can support testing and validating oncopanels, next-generation sequencing equipment that provide physicians along with a genomic-level view associated with tumors – insights that can translate directly into improved predictive, prognostic  and diagnostic information for cancer patients.

Because oncopanel technology is new, there are few, if any, benchmarking techniques for verifying, testing  plus comparing these tools. This challenge is calling on the accuracy medicine, oncology  and next-generation sequencing communities to assist devise benchmarking algorithms and approaches that will can advance oncopanel regulating science.

One specific dimension of this challenge will be being able to identify insertion/deletion mutations — or “indels” — which is a type of genetic variation in which a specific nucleotide sequence is present (insertion) or absent (deletion).  

It’s important to determine indels within a genomic sequence because they are frequently associated with the formation of malignancy cells. This is a common next-generation sequencing problem, and crowdsourcing enables the community of experts who specialize in oncopanels plus next-generation sequencing to propose algorithms that may solve for it.

There are usually labs around the world that have already been working on this and would welcome a chance to demonstrate, evaluate  or even validate their particular solution to see how it compares along with others that may be in development. Crowdsourcing enables research centers to evaluate plus identify the particular top performing indel-calling sewerlines among a community of leading researchers in the field.

Precision medication developers, regulators, citizen scientists, research teams, small business owners  and healthcare companies can plus should act now if these people are interested in making crowdsourcing a more integrated and significant part of their precision medicine programs. Consider the following as next steps:

  • Secure host platform plus environment with a challenge framework

  • Methodologies through ideation in order to top performer announcement, which includes communication strategies and governance

  • Diverse organizing team including program/project manager, graphics and communication support, and data scientist(s)

  • Partners or internal contacts with leading difficulties and available data (if applicable) to be assessed plus used intended for challenges.

Simply by institutionalizing crowdsourcing into their precision medicine applications, stakeholders like precision medication developers, government bodies, citizen researchers, research groups, small business owners  and health care organizations may dramatically widen the aperture of their thinking and approaches to addressing the many challenges within this fast-emerging field associated with science and technology.


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