The importance of biotechnology in promoting human welfare can’t be overstated enough. It is making marked contributions in the areas of human health, agriculture, medicine, the environment, renewable energy and fuels, population control and animal health. Notable achievements in medical biotechnology alone include the production of monoclonal antibodies, DNA and RNA probes for disease diagnosis, artificial vaccines for inoculation, rare and highly valuable drugs such as human interferon and gene therapy for treatment of genetic diseases.

These achievements could never have been realized without the ability of data scientists and data analysts to combine the biological sciences with information technology in order to aid biotech researchers in creating databases to store and manage large sets of data, develop algorithms and statistics to determine relationships among datasets, and use these tools to analyze and interpret biological data. 




      In a recent article in Fierce Biotech, Alexis Borisy, CEO of Warp Drive Bio, said that the prospect of widespread genetic mapping coupled with the power of big data could fundamentally change how biotech does research and development. “Imagine having 1 million cancer patients profiled with data sets available and accessible,” he said. “Think how that very large data set might work–imagine its impact on what development looks like. You just look at the database and immediately enroll a trial of ideal patients.”



      NuMedii, a drug re-positioning company, has taken on a specialized and groundbreaking approach to big data and translating it into new medicines. The company uses big data techniques to effectively match a specific affliction or disease with a basic solution or drug on its fundamental molecular level. By incorporating its big data processes, it has given researchers a head start, eliminated all tedious actions and simplified the entire research method.



      Rich Kottmeyer, Accenture senior director, predicted that the benefits of seed technology will be realized in 2050, when more than half of the world population will be in the middle class. He said this huge middle class, especially in China and India, will create a new consumer that will drive the use of biotech products. How could he predict this? Data science. In fact, the entire agriculture industry is currently moving into a “data-centric” era, which will help allow farmers to know what to grow and where to grow it for the best results.



          An example of how big data and biotech have combined to enhance the field is when Dell Inc. realized that 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. They also welcomed the first 50 students to the Dell Medical School of UT Austin in 2016. 


      Within the biotech industry, the biggest data challenge for researchers is synthesis. How can scientists integrate large quantities and diverse sets of data – genomic, proteomic, phenotypic, clinical, semantic, social, etc. – into a coherent whole? Fortunately, many data analyst teams are providing answers.

      Data scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have developed the Integrative Genomics Viewer (IGV), open source software that allows for the interactive exploration of large, integrated genomic datasets. GNS Healthcare is using proprietary causal Bayesian network modeling and simulation software to analyze diverse sets of data and create predictive models and biomarker signatures.

      The world’s biggest biotech companies are piling up data by the petabyte, amassing numbers for gene expression, biomarker reliability, patient outcomes and pretty much every other measurable vector in biotech research. Data science has become a critical aspect of biotechnology, and data analysts will continue to be in high demand in an industry that many believe will ensure a better future for humanity. As a chosen career path, it is an excellent one with many benefits.


      Click here to learn more about data science degree offerings that will set you on the path to employment in the biotechnology field.