Building the Healthcare Highway of the Future

Have you heard of openFDA?  Created in 2013, openFDA is a program designed to provide open source APIs for drug, device and food data.  The policy objectives include:

  • Giving scientists, developers and healthcare entrepreneurs access to data on a standardized basis; and
  • Making a wide range of drug, device and food data accessible via public-access portals.

Enter Iodine, a San Francisco based startup focusing on bridging the gap between (a) clinical research and (b) lived, real experience with medical treatments, drugs, and healthcare methodologies.  Iodine was recently recruited to help expand the openFDA platform.  According to Thomas Goetz, Iodine’s CEO and Co-founder, the company is going to help build robust, reliable APIs.

This partnership is exciting for a number of reasons.  First, Iodine has been focusing on standardizing healthcare information and making rich, nuanced public reactions to medications and treatments widely available.  For example, if you want to know how a certain demographic group reacts to amoxycillin or telithromycin, Iodine can provide that information straightaway.  As Iodine’s platform evolves, all kinds of helpful information will be a tap away, including rare drug interactions, pharmacogenetics, and all kinds of subtle interactions that occur when administering drugs to heterogenous human populations.

Second, we need federal institutions and technology companies to work together on these tough problems.  If we are going to develop a web of products and services to deliver healthcare on a proactive basis, cooperation between government and the private sector is an absolute necessity.  From this perspective, Iodine’s partnership with the FDA is a very positive development.

Third, we know that tomorrow’s healthcare breakthroughs are going to come from computational biology and data analysis.  Startups like Iodine can see this future, and are building the infrastructure that will allow scientists, entrepreneurs and policy makers to precisely measure the impact of all kinds of healthcare innovations and initiatives.

Imagine a future where a promising rare cancer treatment has no measurable complications during clinical trials but causes serious undetected side effects for certain ethnic groups.  When this treatment becomes widely available, members of that specific ethnic group become violently ill, and some of them don’t make it.  With the current healthcare infrastructure, a solution is literally years away.  Yet a robust, well-designed open data platform could help researchers and healthcare entrepreneurs crunch all the relevant data and identify the potential genetic and environmental causes of those side effects.

With openFDA, we could see solutions to problems like this in weeks or months.  And here’s the beautiful thing:  We won’t have to wait years and decades while our loved ones suffer.


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