Definiens Brings Big Data to the Tissue

| February 9, 2014
Thomas Heydler

Definiens CEO Thomas Heydler.       Image credit: Definiens

Originally published (2/5/14) in Clinical Informatics News By Aaron Krol

This Monday, an unusual partnership was announced between Clarient Diagnostic Services, one of the largest cancer testing facilities in the US, and Definiens, a software company that specializes in applying big data analytics to biomedical information. Clarient will be using a suite of thirteen Definiens-built tests at their CLIA-certified laboratory in Aliso Viejo, CA, to better classify patient samples in tests for breast cancer. There’s nothing new about using big data in cancer testing. Massive troves of information on tumor genetics have become important resources in oncology, and several common genetic mutations have been shown to affect what drugs and courses of therapy a given cancer case is likely to respond to. More recently, a series of companies – most prominently Foundation Medicine, but also MolecularHealth, GenomOncology, and others – have cropped up to sequence tumor genomes and use big data techniques to match patients’ personal mutation profiles to best treatments. What’s different about Clarient’s new partnership is that Definiens doesn’t work with genomes. That’s usually a given when anyone mentions “big data” in the context of the biomedicine, but at Definiens, genomics is viewed as just one segment of a large and interconnected ecosystem of personal health data. “There has been great progress made in genomics, but we have also learned that there are limitations,” says Definiens CEO Thomas Heydler, a serial entrepreneur who has helmed a series of computer science firms in Germany and the US. “It’s not clear in all cases how a gene mutation will translate into proteins, and into tissue, and so the tissue and the phenomic information is still to a large extent the gold standard for doing the diagnosis of a patient. That’s what a pathologist does all the time.”

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