Emily Miraldi, PhD: How Big Data and Genomics are Improving Infectious Disease Research

Ryan Black
NOVEMBER 30, 2017


At IDWeek 2017 in San Diego, Emily Miraldi, PhD, sat down with Healthcare Analytics News™ to talk big data and technology.

The annual infectious disease conference took place in October, and it was an opportunity for the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital researcher to lay out how big data can help find minute genetic details that could make a difference in understanding susceptibility to communicable illnesses, and how they can be treated.

“With this genomic era, it's possible to sequence patients and try to get a sense of how genetic variation could predispose for an infectious disease. The idea there is actually by understanding how potentially patient's specific immune systems respond to infectious disease you could change the outcome,” she said. Genomic research, according to Miraldi, is a big data problem, and one that can continually offer insight and inspiration.  

Miraldi highlighted multiple new technologies that are changing infectious disease research. Single-cell RNA sequencing and the ability to generate and test organoids, she said, give physicians and researchers capabilities they have never had before. Medicine can now home in to find how cells, and on a larger scale, immune systems, will respond to a certain pathogen or treatment.

Still, she said, the science is evolving.

“We're able to come up with a lot of correlations, but we're having difficulty actually figuring out what's causal,” she said. “I think as time moves forward and we're able to experimentally validate and test causal relationships and model organisms, we will be able to make better and better use of these new high dimensional data sets.”
 

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