Vytenis Andriukaitis: Big Data has enormous potential to advance medical research

European health and food safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis has said precision medicine holds huge potential for patients.

Vytenis Andriukaitis | Photo credit: Natalie Hill

By Martin Banks

04 Apr 2018

Speaking at an event in Brussels, he said precision medicine offers “better targeted treatment, avoids medical errors and reduces adverse reactions to medicines.”

However, he also cautioned that “more research is needed for its successful uptake in our health systems.”

A key element in making this happen is to “maximise the possibilities of Big Data in health,” he added. 

Addressing a conference on personalised medicine, the official said, “Big Data has enormous potential to advance medical research, bring about greater innovation in healthcare and improve the overall performance of health systems. 

“However, there are a number of barriers to fully capturing and making full use of the considerable health data we have in the EU, notably fragmentation of data sets and insufficient computing infrastructure to connect Europe’s eHealth systems.

“We are working together at EU level to remove these obstacles so that we can help get innovative medicines to patients faster and improve our health systems.”

Andriukaitis added that the European Commission “is focusing efforts to help ensure that Big Data can be used to provide more efficient and personalised healthcare for patients.”

He was a keynote speaker at the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine’s sixth annual conference, held at Bibliothèque Solvay in Brussels.

Under the auspices of the Bulgarian EU Council presidency, the conference theme this year was ‘Personalised medicine and the Big Data challenge’. The event pulled together leading experts in personalised medicine drawn from patient groups, healthcare professionals plus industry, science, academic and research representatives.

Each session sought to develop concrete policies on patient access to personalised medicine and Estonia’s conclusions on health in the digital society.

Ian Walker, of Roche Foundation Medicine, said, “We have an incredible set of new tools, but also incredible issues with implementation. We now have computing capacity to capture all of this data. These incredible tools are one thing but not enough people are getting access to them.”

Another speaker, Denis Horgan, the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine’s executive director, said the event was an opportunity to discuss Big Data and advances in genetics together with patient involvement in decision-making about their own treatment. 

He said, “We will take our messages, decided by stakeholder consensus, to decision-makers with a view to successfully embedding personalised medicine in all its many facets into the EU’s healthcare systems.”

Further comment came from former European health Commissioner David Byrne who said, “I’m confident that between us we can bring all of the wonderful innovation and technology into the EU’s healthcare systems speedily for the benefit of the patents everywhere.

“The title of this year’s conference is ‘Personalised medicine and the Big Data challenge’, and that title is apt. The challenge is huge. But the potential is even bigger.

“We need to quickly meet the challenge here in Europe. In fact, we can rise to the challenge right here in Brussels.”


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