Big Data Biotech

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted July 22, 2013

The use of big data in modern computer technology has found a home in biotechnology research and development. Big data – where the collections of data sets are too large and complex to be processed using traditional data applications – is comfortably serving the health industry of today, where genomics play an important role.

biotechTwo companies, NuMedii and the computer maker Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL), have shown that big data is a perfect complement to science and future success in developmental research.


Dell, with its headquarters in Red Rock, Texas, a state rich with biotechnology research, is not largely known outside of its computer manufacturing. But it has a long track-record for its strides in the health industry.

It started when Dell realized big data could be applied to genomics to make a profound impact on the quality of patient life. Today, Dell employs more than 13,000 people in the health industry in an effort to advance personalized medicine and create faster genomics, as well as other advancements.

Michael Dell, Dell’s founder, and his wife Susan Dell started the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation in 1999 in support of medical research and treatment. The foundation announced early in the year that it would commit $50 million to establish the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. This would be part of a multi-year $150 million investment to make Austin a center for superior family health.

Since its inception, the foundation has invested close to $1 billion in health and education around the world, with a primary focus in and around Central Texas.

The Dell Medical School is expected to enroll its first class of 50 students in 2016, according to BioNews Texas.

There are further hopes that Dell’s commitment to the health industry will promote additional growth in the biotechnology industry in the Austin area and in the state of Texas.


NuMedii is a relatively new startup spawned by the Stanford fueled StartX in 2008, and the company has taken on a specialized and groundbreaking approach to “big data”. It uses techniques to measure the life science data or genomics, a discipline in genetics to identify pharmaceutical drugs and their potential. It stumbled upon its process through its initial concept to focus on diseases and their taxonomy, Stanford Daily reports.

What sets NuMedii apart from any other company is that it has found a way to dramatically cut down on the time and money it takes for a drug to go through its developmental cycle. By incorporating its “big data” process, it gives researchers a head start, eliminates all the tedious actions, and simplifies the entire research method.

The company has preclinical data from 6 drug-disease matches that confirm its predictive power. That number is unheard of in drug research. Often, a company will focus solely on one drug or disease at a time – it takes that much collective effort and focus for progress. But at NuMedii, researchers focus on a variety of drugs and diseases.

Last year, the company signed a deal with Aptalis Pharma Inc., who primarily develops and sells drugs that focus on gastrointestinal disease and cystic fibrosis. Together, using big data to measure a new drug’s effectiveness, clinical work is expected to show rapid signs of progress.

NuMedii plans to find partners for its other developmental programs as well.

At its most basic level, NuMedii’s big data technology is used to effectively match a specific affliction or disease with a basic solution or drug on its fundamental molecular level. Looking at the disease or the drug and how it affects cells, researchers can then begin to match them up to find what works.

A genome can experience complex changes when it comes in contact with a certain chemical or drug. Those changes are unwarranted when the body’s tissue is already experiencing unwanted changes imposed by a disease. But NuMedii’s technology simplifies the process of finding drugs that, in essence, reverse those chemical changes and work against the disease instead of the body.

The Future

NuMedii’s approach could also be used for existing pharmaceuticals or even those that have been shelved after limited success. It opens doors that traditional methods couldn’t.

The company’s fast approach has caught the eye of many investors – NuMedii was recently able to raise $3.5 million – even as the process is still in development. Lead backers include Claremont Creek Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

$3.5 million may not seem like a lot, but that is only because the new approach to drug research is so efficient.

NuMedii plans to be even more innovative in its 5-year plan, aiming to have an even greater grasp on disease biology and research, all thanks to the big data technology it stumbled upon a few short years ago.

Dell too has seen the importance of big data and its usefulness in helping pharmaceutical companies develop more treatments at an increased rate of time. Drugs that were once put on the shelf because they ran into a brick wall can be reevaluated and given new life. The company will continue its own efforts to capitalize and improve upon the health industry.

NuMedii and Dell are leading the way in big data technology, but it will undoubtedly become widespread, as personalized medicine relies on genomics, computer technology, and the willingness of the Federal Drug Administration to grant clinical trials for treatment.

A brand new era in medicine is upon us, and it’s in large part due to NuMedii, Dell, and big data.


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