“Cross-sectoral cooperation is important in promoting innovation – it is important for entrepreneurs to identify solutions existing in other sectors and to evaluate which of them can contribute to the development of their business. The joint project of IT and medicine in the field of precision medicine serves as an excellent example for entrepreneurs of other industries, because taking into account global economic trends, any sector in Latvia should think about a rapid increase in added value, where the IT sector plays a key role, but not just it. The sectors need to look across the borders of their sectors to reach new products, innovation, markets and cooperation partners, not only on a Latvian scale.” Raimonds Aleksejenko, Deputy State Secretary for Business Development, provides his evaluation by looking at the results of the first Precision Medicine Conference in Latvia.
On 22 May, the Ministry of Economics, in cooperation with the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia, for the first time in Latvia organised the Precision Medicine Conference, where IT and medical professionals, academics and policy makers shared their vision of the importance of precision medicine today and its potential in the future. Precision medicine is an innovative approach to the treatment and diagnosing of diseases, taking into account the genetic diversity, environment and lifestyle of each individual.
Participants of the conference had the opportunity to gain an in-depth knowledge of the importance of big data and analytics in improving the quality of human life, the impact of ICT and technologies on healthcare in general. The conference’s final panel discussion also raised ethical aspects – the red lines when using human health data were discussed, and whether Latvia and the European Union are prepared to take further steps in this medical direction. More than 200 people attended the conference on site and had the opportunity to gain new knowledge and draw inspiration from high-level international and Latvian experts.
At the same time, it should be emphasised that the conference was a closing even for the cycle of activities devoted to precision medicine. At the beginning of May, a workshop of the leading IT and medical industry representatives on the use of big data (large volumes of different types of data obtained from different sources, such as people, equipment or sensors) in biomedicine was conducted in Latvia. Within the workshop, seven interdisciplinary teams worked on developing new solutions that could be successfully used on an already fully functioning national scale health data lake (a data lake is a platform/infrastructure where different types of structured data are available together; in the case of a health data lake, these would be a variety of medical data, such as medical history, biomarkers, etc.).
“When shaping the budgetary framework and policy for the next programming period, the European Commission has identified the establishment of health data infrastructure as one of the priorities for strengthening EU’s competitiveness and building the health sector as a global centre of excellence. Such infrastructure has only started to develop in the world, but Latvia is currently standing a step ahead of other countries – the examination of Latvia-based undertakings, research organisations and hospitals, as well as mutual cooperation initiatives have currently made Latvia one of the leading countries in the implementation of such an initiative. Therefore, this is the right time for us to develop the concept and solutions of a health data lake with active work and creative solutions, which can also be scaled internationally,” emphasises R.Aleksejenko.
During the workshop, teams developed a variety of solutions, ranging from a completely new and results-oriented national healthcare model and a universal platform that collects and visualises patient data in an interactive way to universal solutions in radiology and oncology.
One of the high-level foreign experts, the leading scientist of Philips medical office Szymon Bieanski shared his thoughts after the event: “The conference in Latvia provided me with a significant insight into the latest trends in genome research and the analysis of big data in biomedicine. The conference and the session for presentation of the results of the workshop brought together scientists, young entrepreneurs and employees of national regulatory authorities to discuss innovation and promote the development of the health data lake project. It is a very ambitious project, in which it is planned to develop a health data infrastructure managed in a centralised manner in Latvia. It was a unique experience, so I thank you for the opportunity to participate in the conference, the interesting discussions, the challenging questions and lessons.”
The teams worked actively on the improvement of the developed solutions until 21 May, when they were presented to an international team of experts the day before the conference. The experts provided feedback and highlighted the aspects, on which teams still have to work before putting them into practice.