The Opportunities and Challenges in Stratified Medicine: an MSc View

July 17, 2015 | Emma

My name is Emma and I’m currently working at Aridhia as an intern in the data science team as part of my MSc course in Stratified Medicine at the University of Glasgow.

I was delighted to see the University win the Herald Higher Education Awards Outstanding Employer Engagement award for the MSc Stratified Medicine this week. This internship was precisely the reason that I was attracted to study this particular course in the first place as although it is primarily based in the university, the programme prides itself in being very industry led, and rightly so. Throughout my course I have worked with the Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre, Life Technologies, and now Aridhia.

Although many academic science courses claim to have this industry focus, in reality I think that it’s hard to actually achieve. I often hear of students who, after finishing their studies, jump straight into a working environment simply to realise that the skills learned in lectures and university labs are more difficult to implement into real-life situations than they would have thought. I’m happy to report that this won’t be the case for me.

I am not just simply keen to study stratified medicine; it is a field that I genuinely feel passionate about and I can’t wait to work in a position where I can be a part (however small!) of making this a reality. There are so many bodies that need to work together to make this happen and throughout my course an overriding theme across all of the core subjects has been collaboration – not only in each team, but across the healthcare sector in general.

This being said, I have had my fair share of frustrations this year. Although we are now at a point where recent advances in private sector health informatics could create a huge shift in how care is delivered, there are some serious challenges to overcome within the healthcare system itself. Simple things like integrated IT systems and electronic patient records are far from being synchronised across the sector, and this poor level of information flow has become a common headache amongst health professionals. Collaboration is so often discussed, but for stratified medicine to have a true effect on patient treatments and outcomes, system-wide changes that actually enable it – including vital integration and adaptations in financing, policy and regulation, from the bottom-up – are required.

Throughout my MSc I have often reported on the challenges in translating information from ‘bench to bedside’. With the current state of healthcare technology, being able to share and collaborate on findings across all healthcare levels in order to make a real impact on patient outcomes can sometimes seem far from achievable. Since working in Aridhia however, I have come to see what can be achieved when collaboration is effectively enabled and discovered the serious potential of their AnalytiXagility platform in facilitating this. This collaborative data science platform is able to provide a validated, secure workspace which can bring people from across the healthcare system together, and simplify the integration, analysis and consumption of health related data. It has enormous potential, not only in being able to bridge the communication gap between research and clinic, but also as far as stratified medicine is concerned, I believe that it is technologies like this that will become the backbone of the healthcare system by enabling the optimal information flow and secure hosting of genomic data required to make the science of stratified medicine a reality.

During my time at Aridhia I have been working on a project to review current methods of visualising genomic data. I am working to propose a novel genomic visualisation technique which could be implemented and utilised by clinicians, allowing for the undoubtable challenges of translating complex genomic information into something that would be considered actionable at a patient level.

It has been fantastic to see first-hand the real benefits that data science can deliver and working alongside the data science team has really given me some insight into the potential that this has to revolutionise healthcare. One thing that has consistently struck me is the level of skill and passion that everyone in the team has and I have no doubt that it will be forward thinking, innovative companies like Aridhia that really start to mould and shape the way that we will use genomic data in future.


 

emma

Emma joined Aridhia in July 2015 on an industrial placement from the University of Glasgow MSc Stratified Medicine course, and was invited to take up a permanent post on graduation. During this placement Emma gained practical training in the hands-on science of stratified medicine at the intersection of computing, genetics and healthcare delivery, and completed her dissertation, entitled ‘Review of Genomic Visualisation Techniques for Clinical Application’. Emma received an MSc (Distinction) in Stratified Medicine and Pharmacological Innovation (SMPI) in 2015, and also holds a BSc (Hons) Neuroscience from the University of Glasgow.

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