09 May

How Cloud Computing Is Creating Breakthroughs in Medical Research

When research firm Frost & Sullivan released a 2014 survey naming the cloud as one of the hottest topics in healthcare, no one could have predicted its meteoric rise or intrinsic value to health science. Today, the cloud is enabling breakthroughs in medical research and empowering the healthcare community to work together to develop groundbreaking treatment options that impact patients around the globe.


Proven Benefits During Times of Crisis

When an Ebola outbreak swept through West Africa in 2014, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Center for Disease Control mobilized health researchers across the world to control its transmission and develop a vaccine trial in Sierra Leone. Microsoft also stepped in to provide cloud services to medical researchers that enabled them to quickly pool data and resources.

“During the height of the Ebola epidemic the urgency of saving lives accelerated research and development efforts. By bringing together the best minds in vaccinology, clinical trials for a number of candidate Ebola vaccines rapidly got underway,” explains Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General, Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, WHO.

Bringing a vaccine to market usually takes upward of seven years, according to the WHO, but the first Ebola vaccine could be available within one to two years thanks to “an exceptionally accelerated schedule.” These rapid advances are made possible in part by collaborative efforts and technology.


Long-Term Research and Data Analysis 

Cloud computing isn’t just beneficial for rapid response and emergency situations. It’s also proven to be a boon for long-term medical research and data analysis. For example, The National Institutes of Health recently moved its Cancer Genome Atlas from local servers into the cloud. It contains more than one petabyte of data, including comprehensive medical information on over 30 types of cancers collected from 11,000 patients. 

“I think it’s going to be very, very helpful to scientists and clinicians who have not been able to get to the data before,” said Anna Barker, former deputy director of the NIH’s National Cancer Institute. STAT’s article on the move to the cloud explains that the cloud enables doctors to match cancer treatments and patients by using abstruse data to find patterns.

Genome mapping and sequencing extends far beyond cancer research and into other serious medical issues like autism and Alzheimer’s. By placing valuable medical data on secure HIPAA-compliant cloud platforms, researchers, scientists and physicians can work together to discover patterns and compare results, leading to quicker discoveries and better patient treatment plans.


Cost Savings Free up Resources for Further Research

In addition to being efficient, cloud-based data collection also is more cost-effective. Cloud vendors shoulder the burden of maintenance, upgrades, scalability, support and security, which frees up infrastructure resources that allow health science professionals to focus on important research.

Frost & Sullivan’s 2014 report explains that true healthcare transformation requires shared access. It says: “With 5,400 petabytes of raw data from next generation sequencing to be stored by 2018, cost effectively storing and making this data accessible to clinicians and researchers will require cloud solutions.”

Cloud computing is still one of the hottest topics in modern healthcare technology because health scientists and physicians can draw from it to enhance their research and collaboration efforts. Adoption of cloud services throughout the healthcare community helps position researchers on the brink of medical breakthroughs that would otherwise take many years, or perhaps decades, to achieve.







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