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June 07, 2017
Bio-IT World Conference & Expo 2017- Discovery, data and collaboration driven
By: Joe Donahue

Data-driven business a key theme of this year’s conference.

Thousands of people descended on Boston’s Seaport district from May 23-25 for the Bio-IT World Conference & Expo 2017. The conference, a premier event, showcases IT/informatics applications and enabling technologies that drive biomedical research, drug discovery and development, and clinical and healthcare initiatives.

This year’s conference welcomed more than 3,300 life sciences, pharmaceutical, clinical, healthcare and IT professionals from more than 40 countries. Keynote speakers included:

  • Rommie E. Amaro, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry; Director, National Biomedical Computation Resource, University of California, San Diego

  • Rainer Fuchs, Ph.D., CIO, Harvard Medical School

  • Edison T. Liu, M.D., President and CEO, The Jackson Laboratory

  • William Mayo, CIO, Broad Institute

  • Andrea T. Norris, Director, Center for Information Technology (CIT) and CIO, NIH

  • Aarti Shah, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and CIO, Eli Lilly and Company

Over the three days, a central theme emerged around pharmaceutical companies becoming data-driven businesses, with a need to maximize the value of data generated. There’s a clear imperative for companies to implement tighter end-to-end governance in generating, capturing, integrating, storing, mining and analyzing data. Only when data is in this target state will it be possible to benefit from leading-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

There was also a strong buzz around technology’s potential to transform the future of drug R&D. This transformation will, in part, be driven by companies whose names are familiar, but who have not yet been key players in pharmaceutical R&D. One example of this type of novel collaboration was revealed with the landmark announcement that Broad Institute will release their Genome Analysis Toolkit (GATK)—an invaluable resource for anyone working in the rapidly advancing field of genomics—to the open source community. Other companies driving change include Intel and Google, both contributors to a technology that will enable improvements in the size, speed and scalability of genomics workflows, and Salesforce, who is leveraging an established platform architecture to develop novel applications in the pharma industry.

Apart from AI, hot topics included cloud computing, predictive analytics and creating infrastructures that support data security, as well as growing numbers of external research collaborations.

The first full day kicked-off with an engaging CIO panel composed of leaders from Harvard Medical School, The Broad Institute, Eli Lilly and the NIH. Dr. Aarti Shah (Eli Lilly) spoke about Lilly moving from a Fully Integrated Pharma Company (FIPCO) to a Fully Integrated Partner Network (FIPNET), emphasizing the value of commercial and academic partners that work with multiple organizations who bring an “outside-in perspective.”

Among pre-conference workshops, the Data Management for Biologics session drew a large and engaged crowd.

Kudos to the organizers for hosting another vibrant event and for providing us a fantastic opportunity to connect with other attendees and learn from industry experts.


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