The BigMed Conference 2020: A Very Brief Introduction

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In the last two weeks, we have seen the last U.S. presidential debate before the election, the Vatican taking small but progressive steps forward, and an endless stream of Coronavirus alerts. You might ask, what else is new? Well, Norway has made a big step in mapping the future of precision medicine: BigMed 2020!

Monday October 19th was the BigMed Conference: the way to precision medicine. The whole day was dedicated to the different disciplines that must collaborate to develop the channels needed to make precision medicine part of everyday health care.

The BigMed Project itself is hosted by Oslo University Hospital and is a cooperation including academic and industry partners, and patient organizations. It is funded by the Norwegian Research Council and these dedicated partners.

The project was created in order to lay the foundation for an ICT platform that addresses the bottlenecks for clinical implementation of precision medicine and paves the way for novel big data analytics.The project has created various ICT tools in order to demonstrate how data-driven precision medicine can be implemented in a clinical setting. For more information and unique insight read The Big Data Management for the Precise Treatment of Three Patient Groups whitepaper. Released by BigMed in 2018, it is a good in-depth introduction to the challenges and potential of precision medicine.

Check out the conference recording below and read on for program highlights. Speaker program and links to individual presentations here.

If the topic of “Big Data” and “Precision Medicine” are elusive, don’t worry. It turns out that people from many disciplines and specialties are part of the solution to carrying out this type of medicine. The fact that it shifts, and changes is all in the make-up and maturation of the field. Many professions and organizations span its progress from clinicians to data scientists to geneticists to academics. Indeed, people with all sorts of backgrounds presented at the conference to urge interdisciplinary cooperation.

A Vision for Precision Medicine

Vibeke Binz Vallevik (Project Leader, BigMed, OUS & Principal Researcher, DNV GL) opens the conference day with a warm welcome

Eric Fosse (Department Leader at Intervention Center, OUS) discusses a future vision of precision medicine.

The Use and Protection of Data

A panel discussion between experts including: Dag Undlien (Head of Genetic Medicine, OUS), Anne Kjersti Befring (Associate Professor, Law UiO) and others on using and protecting data.

Inserting big data analytics as a part of everyday health services from every aspect of support will be orchestrated by a team with diverse skill sets. Currently the systems of analyzing data are in development or in place. Like using whole-genome sequencing to tailor medical treatment and map pathways for pharmacogenomic (PGx) testing. However, permission and access are sometimes stalled at the ICT systems and/or need for ethical & legal processes.

The Safe Introduction of New Technology

Check out individual presentations by: Ingrid Stenstavold Ross presenting how the future of health lies in data & Pål Brekke presents the pathway of health data to the clinical benefit of AI as well as others here.

The image below represents the broad range of areas that come together to, I paraphrase here: “generate a functioning system for improving diagnosis through advanced data analysis, prediction and choice of intervention by data capture all used within a well-functioning ICT-infrastructure. Enabled by current legal and ethical frameworks as well as organizational framework and governing models” (pg.58)

Among the separate areas that comprise the precision medicine “pill” pictured above, one area of note that requires work is the secondary use of data. Several speakers discussed the reuse of clinical data. Meaning that the data can be used for a different purpose than its original collection objective.

Solutions for the Future Use of Secondary Data

Vegar Johansen opened this section with a presentation on dataflow for decision support in cancer treatment

Hege Russnes (Seniorkonsulent, Patologi/Gruppeleder, Avd. kreftgenetikk, OUS), discussing InPred: the infrastructure of precision medicine.

Alia Zaka presenting the BigMed Zone: a platform for clinical innovation

Panel discussion featuring: Vegar Johansen Dagenborg (Kirurg, OUS), Bjørn Næss (Produkteier, DIPS), Alia Zaka (Ass. Project Manager BIGMED Project), Hege Russnes (Seniorkonsulent, Patologi/Gruppeleder, Avd. kreftgenetikk, OUS), Renate Gruner (Forskningsdirektør, Helse Bergen HF), Ulf Sigurdsen (Leder for e-Helse, Helse Sør-Øst RHF), & moderated by Ida Susanna Fattah (CEO, MedLytic)

Here, ownership status of data within the legal and organizational framework come to head with the techniques used in traditional research and again with the disparate structure of data storage, format, and quality. In short, the need for data standardization, reformulation of some clinical methods, and protection and privacy of patient information are just some of the barriers that are retarding the progress of the implementation of precision medicine.

But the discussion of barriers is only part of the road to a streamlined precision medicine service. The general tone at the conference was one of hope.

Here you see a very engaged audience, spaced 1 meter apart of course

Half the conference was dedicated to innovation to speed up realizing precision medicine. Presentations included innovation at the new OUS, new digital transformations processes, and examples from the BigMed dashboard in the DIPS arena as well as Connect: private and official collaboration in precision medicine for cancer.

A Shorter Path from Innovation to Implementation

Panel discussion on implementation using innovation: Just Ebbesen (Prosjektleder Fremtidens OUS, OUS), Thomas Smedsrud (Medical Director, DIPS), Kjetil Taskèn (Professor, UiO), Margunn Aanestad (Professor, UiA), Christian Kersten (Medical leader, Roche), Cornelia Mender (Connectivity Leader, GE Healthcare), Hilde Myhren (Medical Director, OUS), and moderated by Kathrine Myhre (CEO, Norway Health Tech)

There is a lot of work to do, including massive shifts in current thought and advocacy. The air of excitement and hope at the conference in hand with a room full of experts and those seeking creative ventures, showed the support of Big Data as a normal part of health care.

The Patients Health Service in the Digital Future

Anne Grethe Erlandsen (State Secretary, Ministry of Health and Care Services)

BigMed-Konferansen 2020


  1. Schlegel, D. R., & Ficheur, G. (2017). Secondary Use of Patient Data: Review of the Literature Published in 2016. Yearbook of medical informatics26(1), 68–71. https://doi.org/10.15265/IY-2017-032
  2.  The Big Data Management for the Precise Treatment of Three Patient Groups, by Editotial committee OUS, DNV GL and contributions from partners
  3.  BigMed Partner Projects Page, GeniOUS

Photos by Remi R.


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