A deluge of data is transforming science and industry. Many hope that this massive flux of information will reveal new vistas of insight and understanding, but extracting knowledge from Big Data requires appropriate statistical tools. Often, very little can be assumed about the types of patterns lurking in large data sets. In these cases it is important to use statistical methods that do not make strong assumptions about the relationships one hopes to identify and measure.
The first issue of this magazine (June 2005) featured a story called “Top Ten Challenges of the Next Decade” written by Eric Jakobssen, PhD, who had recently left his position as Director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology in the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Whole genome sequencing (WGS) and whole exome sequencing (WES), which sequences only the protein-coding regions of the genome, have already begun to transform clinical medicine. They are being used to home in on the causes of rare and undiagnosed genetic diseases, determine appropriate cancer treatments for a given tumor, and match drugs and doses to an individual’s genomic makeup.
Pharmaceutical research is notoriously expensive. To find safe and effective drugs cost-effectively, some researchers seek new uses for medications that have already leaped the hurdles of the FDA approval process. One systematic approach to such drug-repurposing projects involves virtual screening of molecular structures to identify compounds likely to have a particular desired effect.
They say that what you don’t know can’t hurt you. But what your pediatric surgeon doesn’t know certainly can hurt your child. An orthopedist who recommends that a child with cerebral palsy undergo hamstring surgery to correct a gait problem, for example, often can’t be sure if the procedure will make things better, or worse.
One rainy day in the late 1990s, a biomechanics doctoral student stood sopping at the street corner, hoping his research participant would arrive for her gait analysis. “It was the third time she stood me up. I was sick and tired of waiting for people to come to me,” says Reed Ferber, PhD, recalling his graduate years at the University of Oregon.