Genomics and big data; and I ♥ Milton Keynes

I attended a recent conference run by the Sanger Institute and supplier DDN on genomics and big data, which involved a visit to the Sanger’s famous laboratories and data centre. Genomics could produce between two and 40 exabytes of data annually by 2025; astronomy, which churns out data, is expected to produce just one exabyte. A decent-sized PC hard-drive holds a terabyte of data, roughly a million megabytes; an exabyte is roughly a million terabytes. A lot. The resulting article for ComputerWeekly.com is here.

The massive scale of genomics data is forcing those providing its IT to rediscover old efficiency techniques. It is also seeing institutions working to upgrade their facilities. This includes University of Oxford, which is working on a new Big Data Institute near the city’s hospitals in Headington. Continue reading “Genomics and big data; and I ♥ Milton Keynes”

Glasgow’s excess mortality: blame deprivation and housing?

Guardian Healthcare Professionals Network has just published an article by me on cities, health and data. This gave me the chance to revisit what has been a puzzle: what is the cause of Glasgow’s excess mortality, which sees men there dying nearly a decade earlier than in the longest-living urban area in the UK (Kensington and Chelsea)?

The Glasgow Centre for Population Health has been working to find answers, and it has a couple, provisionally. Firstly, it thinks that Glasgow’s deprivation is deeper than the data – which tends to measure whether people are below a threshhold (and therefore qualify for a benefit) – suggests. Secondly, it believes that Glasgow had a particularly bad legacy of poor post-war housing, such as the Red Road tower-blocks that the city attempted to demolish at the weekend.  There are other factors too. Continue reading “Glasgow’s excess mortality: blame deprivation and housing?”

Treating cancer with genomics data for ComputerWeekly.com

I have written an article for ComputerWeekly.com on how big data and genomics are combining to treat cancer, specifically by using the DNA of cancerous cells to help choose which medicines and treatments to use for a patient. Stratified medicine (using different treatments depending on the patient, rather than just the type and stage of cancer) is already a reality, particularly for breast cancer.

But a major trial offering a range of new treatments for advanced lung cancer – the National Lung Matrix Trial run by Cancer Research UK, NHS trusts and drug companies – looks set to take this concept significantly further. Continue reading “Treating cancer with genomics data for ComputerWeekly.com”

The biggest council CCTV spenders per resident: Westminster… then Tamworth

Big Brother Watch’s newly-released data on £515m of council CCTV spending between 2007 and 2011 (covered by my colleague Sade Laja on Guardian Government Computing) is even more interesting when combined with population numbers. Obviously, camera spending per capita is not a perfect measure, as some areas clearly have security needs beyond those of their immediate populations. This would help to explain why Westminster is the biggest spender per head of population: £46.75 over the last four years, compared to a UK average of £8.27.
Continue reading “The biggest council CCTV spenders per resident: Westminster… then Tamworth”