A wealthy Chinese citizen is to invest $50m (£31m) in a joint venture with the University of Oxford to build what is claimed to be the first step in a UK context for building systems to support the delivery of individualised, data-driven molecular based medicine for the benefit of NHS cancer patients.
Patrick Chan Soon-Shiong and the University are to create the so-called Chan Soon-Shiong Oxford Centre for Molecular Medicine, set up to advance clinical cancer care in the UK through the extensive use of genomic and proteomic driven diagnoses based on aggressive use of Big Data.
"Using the most advanced, sophisticated tools imaginable, we’re on a mission to solve the mystery of cancer, and establish an adaptive learning system where the power of one can inform many," commented Soon-Shiong. who is claimed to be the world's wealthiest physician.
In specific technology terms, the Centre will be supplied with "next-generation" patient information systems to support the acquisition and usage of high-quality sequencing data, a step the partners say will enable new approaches to therapeutic decisions, drug discovery capabilities, machine learning predictive modelling, as well as support on-going clinical trials to evaluate the impact of therapeutic interventions in large patient populations.
The £31m will also provide doctors with large-scale sequencing capabilities for patient-level epigenomic, genomic, proteomic, and digital pathology data capture as well as novel tools and super-computing technology to support critical decision making for cancer treatment, said the pair.
That level of power is needed, said Soon-Shiong, as cancer data needs to be looked at at large scale: pointing out that if the USA has 13m cancer survivors, or between 4,000 or 5,000 a day, in IT terms their information would be equivalent to 50 to 60 times the daily download of information from Facebook.
“Through this partnership, we are furthering our ability to use cutting edge technologies to allow radically new approaches to cancer care,” claimed Professor Sir John Bell FRS, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford.
“We will gain new understanding of how large amounts of genomic and other molecular data can be combined with clinical data to tell us much more about a patient’s cancer. The data will provide a rich resource for cancer research, drive the development of new drugs and support the design of clinical trials.
"Ultimately, the treatment course a patient receives will be determined by the characteristics of the cancer they have," he added.
The government welcomed the news, with the Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman, commenting at the press event set up to announce the move: "This investment highlights the international confidence in the UK’s ability to develop better and more personalised cancer treatments that can make a real difference to patients - especially in rare disease and cancer."
The Minister added that the deal confirms that the UK is leading the world in the "exciting new field" of genomic medicine.