Top researcher: digitize your health data

Tuesday 25 Sep 18

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Bjarke Bak Christensen
Head of Department
DTU Bioengineering
+45 30 66 42 33

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Digitization of health data

In May, a majority of the Danish Parliament voted to create a national genome centre, which, among others, is to be responsible for storing whole genome sequencing from patients who have had their genes analysed. In Denmark, healthy people are not the target group for genome sequencing in the National Strategy for Personalised Medicine.


In January 2018, the SIRI commission think tank—appointed by the Danish Society for Engineers, IDA, and Ida Auken, member of the Danish Parliament for the Danish Social-Liberal Party—recommended that the government establish a new central unit to ensure an overall overview of the Danes’ health data, so health professionals, researchers, companies, and citizens get access to the right amount of high-quality health data.
One of the most cited researchers in Denmark, Professor Jun Wang, participates in DTU High Tech Summit and urges all Danes to digitize their health data.

Chinese top researcher and former Head of Beijing Genome Institute, Jun Wang, believes that digitization of health information is crucial for the choice of medicine, health, and treatments, and he encourages all Danes to start collecting health data about themselves in a digital form and have them stored in a data bank.

Jun Wang is the first keynote speaker at DTU High Tech Summit on 10-11 October.

“It’s essential that the population digitizes their health data because it provides individuals with greater knowledge of their own health, and the data provides doctors with better insight into their patients. Today, very few people know their own genetics or have insight into their digital health data. They do not know their gut bacteria or heart function and do not record dietary habits systematically. But by digitizing data, people will be able to get better treatments in the future,” says Jun Wang.

Digital lookalike
Forty-one-year-old Jun Wang has previously been the driving force behind global large-scale analyses of human and animal genetic material. He currently owns a private company, IcarbonX, which makes genetic analyses of individuals’ entire genome—a so-called whole genome sequencing—for more than a million private individuals who have paid to get a digital lookalike—a copy of their DNA and other personal, biological data.

At DTU High Tech Summit, Jun Wang comments on the work with collecting and digitizing genome data and the work with using machine learning and big data for calculating the consequences of lifestyle, health choices, and treatments for his clients.

Bjarke Bak Christensen, Project Director for High Tech Summit, believes that Jun Wang’s work touches on a number of issues which digitization, artificial intelligence, and big data raise in all sectors—not least within health, food technology, and biotechnology.

“All sectors are being challenged by digitization. Therefore, it is interesting to see how Jun Wang links new technologies and exploit the opportunities for analysing huge data sets and use them in diagnosing and treating the individual. At my own department, DTU Bioengineering, we face similar challenges in our work using digital technologies to analyse the composition of our gut bacteria. It provides insight into how the microorganisms convert and react to different nutrients, and what it means for the health of the individual,” says Bjarke Bak Christensen, Head of Department at DTU Bioengineering.

"Today, we have the opportunity to explore ourselves more and take control of our lives using digital data. "
Professor Jun Wang

Take control of your digital life
In addition to the work to integrate digital technology into manufacturing processes, Jun Wang sees a strong need for governments in individual countries and across Europe to lay down rules for handling health data. There is a lack of rules for data protection, both for the individual citizen and at national level, and there is no public awareness of the value of having access to own digital health data. 

“Twenty years ago, I encouraged everyone to start thinking about sequencing their own genomes. Today, everyone should digitize themselves. The individual’s needs can be on many levels and of many different kinds. If you, for instance, want to use a skincare product, you need data about your skin, and if you want to use medicine, you should have data about your own genome first in order to decide the right treatment for you. Today, we have the opportunity to explore ourselves more and take control of our lives using digital data. We need to seize the opportunity and not only base our choices on gut feelings but on data and science,” says Jun Wang.


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11 DECEMBER 2018