Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Severin Schwan on Big Data and Big Pharma

Severin Schwan, CEO of Roche:
Top tech companies like Google, IBM, SAP and their ilk are all obviously interested in healthcare, Schwan told Japan's Nikkei news service. And those companies are experts at digitizing and analyzing data; they have the tools and algorithms necessary to make sense of mountains of information. "But what they miss is the medical knowledge, the understanding of biology," Schwan pointed out. "They can't ask the right questions. They can program, but they don't know what to program."
This reminds me of a time when a software-developer-turned-bioinformatics-guy asked me about some RNA-seq data, and was confused at the fact that a lot of genes weren't being used: "Why do cells code for all these genes when they're not using most of them?" he asked.

To which I replied: "That's because many different kinds of cells have to use the same genome. You don't run every command in each R package you load, do you?"