Now Viewing: Environmental health

Big News in Big Data: NIH Launches Largest and Most Diverse Genetics Database Ever Created

Feb 26, 2014, 7:21 PM, Posted by Nancy Barrand

biobank

Eighteen years ago this month, Big Data had a cultural coming out party when IBM's Deep Blue defeated international chess champion Gary Kasparov in a game. Gary Kasparov was a chess genius. But Deep Blue could mine the records of 700,000 grandmaster chess games and evaluate 200 million positions per second. The famously nimble Kasparov ultimately could not match the brute computing force of Deep Blue. 

This week we mark another historic milestone in Big Data history. This time, there is more at stake than bragging rights from a chess competition. 

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Shutdown

Oct 9, 2013, 12:05 PM, Posted by Mike Painter

Mike Painter

There are still places left where the prehistoric wisdom of our planet stands sentinel. I just returned from such a spot, a high elevation Sierra Nevada fortress of wildness and ancient Earth. Ironically, our own federal government has designated the region a wilderness. It's almost comical to me that right as we hiked into this area, bickering, partisan factions back east shut down the very government that presumes to preside here. In fact, until those folks sort out their problems, you can visit these wilderness areas without a federal permit. Heads up, however, if something happens to you during your permit-less visit; you are on your own. I like the sound of that, actually.

These places are vast and impervious to current events. Trust me; they do not care about human welfare, cultures, health, poverty, wealth, communities, cities, or governments. They just silently stand testament throughout the millennia to the true nature of our home.

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Introducing the Pitch Day Finalists: The Human Genome + the Human Exposome = Your Health

Oct 7, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Elise Miller, director of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment Elise Miller, director of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment

What if we could map the environmental exposures that affected someone’s health, starting from the moment of conception? And what if we could use that information to radically transform our ability to prevent disease? That’s the highly simplified version of the idea that a team helmed by Elise Miller. She was invited to present her idea live and in person at the first-ever Pioneer Pitch Day, along with seven other finalists. Read Miller’s 1,000-character proposal below, and join the discussion on Twitter at #pioneerpitch.

Elise Miller is the director of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, which you can connect with on Twitter at @che_for_science and on Facebook. The other members of her pitch team include Frederica Perera, PhD, and Maida Galvez, MD, MPH.

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What’s Next Health: Microbiomes Where we Live, Work, Learn and Play

Sep 4, 2013, 12:30 PM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Jessica Green

Each month, What’s Next Health talks with leading thinkers about the future of health and health care. Recently, we talked with Jessica Green, founding director of the BioBE (Biology and the Built Environment Center), to explore how a better understanding of the microbiome in our built environment might lead to healthier buildings and healthier lives.

By Jessica Green

We’ve known for some time about the invisible microbes in us and around us—small organisms including viruses, bacteria and fungi. There was a time when most believed that these microbes were all bad for us. After all, they were the ones responsible for getting us sick. But now, we know that many microbes are either benign or actually beneficial to us.

As a nuclear engineer, I had experience modeling things I couldn’t see. When I learned people were modeling biological systems showing how microbes interact with each other—systems we know as microbiomes—and using big data to understand them and how they affect us, I was immediately intrigued. When I thought about microbes in the context of my interest in conservation and biodiversity, I became hooked. And I am not alone. This is a rapidly growing field and through our collective work, we have been learning more and more about the potential of microbiomes to be agents of health, especially in their work to support vital functions in and on the body. Now we are also starting to examine and rethink how microbes move among us and our surroundings and what this means for how we design our built environments.

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The Tip of the Iceberg for Science: Massive Biobank Starts Yielding Results

Oct 27, 2011, 9:35 AM

What do you get when you take 100,000 genotyped biological specimens and link them to longitudinal medical, environmental, behavioral and demographic data? You get Kaiser Permanente’s Research Program on Genes, Environment and Health (RPGEH), a Pioneer-supported effort that has developed the most robust and comprehensive research resource of its kind in the world.

At an unprecedented pace, researchers from the RPGEH biobank at Kaiser Permanente, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco Institute for Human Genetics, have collected 170,000 samples and genotyped over 100,000 of them in just over a year. While currently the largest biobank in the United States, the ultimate goal is even more impressive: to collect data from a half million members of the Kaiser Permanente health plan linked to their electronic health records and population surveys – creating the largest, most comprehensive biobank on the planet.

Early research findings generated from the RPGEH data were presented this month at the joint annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics and the International Conference on Human Genetics in Montreal and are featured in the November issue of Nature Medicine. From an investigation of prostate cancer among African American men to a multi-ethnic study on bipolar disorder to a pharmacogenetic study of response to metformin, a drug used to treat type-2 diabetes, the RPGEH biobank is already starting to deliver.

But this is just the beginning - experts say that the possibilities for studying genetic and environmental influences over time thanks to this project are endless, with enormous potential for accelerating both the pace and breadth of medical research. The implications not only for the science community, but also for public health leaders and patients, are immeasurable. Stay tuned.