“Omne Vivum Ex Vivo” for Data-Driven Health

Louis Pasteur’s law of biogenesis (reflected in the above Latin phrase meaning “all life from life”) might well capture how we see our mission at Commerce to democratize and harness public data to drive innovation and help solve big public problems.

To explain, we see in countless ways every day — from patent search that begets new patents, to trade data used to fuel exports — how mining and combining open public data, and combining public data with private data sets, multiplies its value and impact. Just as Pasteur’s microorganisms multiplying in an open flask led to life-saving vaccinations and drugs.

Counselor Justin Antonipillai, Economics & Statistics Administration (left) and Chairman & Co-Founder Marc Dacosta, Enigma

A century after Pasteur’s day, prescription drug development and application is critical to the health of our people, and the strength of our economy. In turn, the volume of US government public data on prescription drugs available today is staggering, and invaluable.

Every year, there are disparate open data sets from public sources including our own Department of Commerce US Patent and Trademark Office (drug patents), National Institutes of Health (clinical trials), the US Food and Drug Administration (“Orange Book” of approved drugs), Adverse Event Reporting, Orphaned products, US Center for Disease Control recalls, the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the European Drug Registry.

The challenge, of course, is that to derive insights and make this digestible, these data sets need to be brought together and tools need to be provided to really unleash the potential. As you know from my recent posts, we here at Commerce have issued a challenge to companies and the private sector to make our constant surge of data more consumable. The initial response is inspiring. We’re onto something big.

Today, I write about another company that has taken on this challenge. Enigma has brought many of these public data sets together — including the Commerce/PTO patent data — and created “A Prescription for Healthcare Data.” This free and open public site will make available to the public “wrangled” data from disparate government sources on over 80 of the most commonly-dispensed drugs in America, and lets users follow the winding path from patent to patient.

“Knowledge,” Dr. Pasteur said, “is the torch which illuminates the world.” Imagine the brilliant lumens of light that our troves of public data on medicine today — if made more useful and useable — could shine on our children’s world tomorrow.

This is exactly why I have such a passion for our mission to democratize our public data. It’s not really about machine learning, algorithms, predictive analytics and the like, as important as these technologies and the talents driving them are. It’s about putting our data assets to work to make life better for more people.

It is terrific that Enigma has taken on this public challenge to make our data more available to more of the country, and we are proud that our PTO data could serve such a critical role in this free and open project.

Here’s a joint piece by Marc and me about the Enigma project.

What are we taking?

About 60 percent of Americans over 20 take at least one prescription drug, the American Medical Association’s journal reports. Over 15 percent take five or more. Pharma is a nearly $400 billion industry in the US alone. Taking prescription medicine is part of daily life, and plays a major role in advancing health and wellness. Naturally, it’s a major healthcare policy and headline issue.

Yet few have a complete picture of the drugs we’re prescribed and rely on. It’s hard to follow the lifecycle of activities and milestones, like: Who developed the drug? What was it designed to address? How was it tested? Who is prescribing or using it?

These questions linger despite the wealth of data generated and compiled in the conception, development and regulation of the drugs, and made public by pharma companies and government agencies. The problem is, this data is fragmented and disbursed by many disparate US government sources in different ways.

How can we know more?

A Prescription for Healthcare Data, a new free and open healthcare data site created by Enigma tries to address this problem.

It’s a connected and open data experience that links together existing public datasets from several sources — including open data from our Patent and Trademark Office — on 80 commonly-prescribed drugs that make up about 70 percent of all US pharmaceutical sales.

A Prescription for Healthcare Data provides transparency into healthcare data, enabling visitors to trace these prescription drug’s critical milestones from early development to generic usage. By connecting 10 typically fragmented public datasets, the site provides coherent and extensive timelines for each prescription drug, enabling visitors to easily explore and draw insights from these drug lifecycles.

Bringing these public datasets together is just the beginning, and others can continue to build upon the site and datasets or create their own sites.

Who might benefit?

Beneficiaries of this wrangling and presentation of public prescription drug data could include:

Healthcare policy experts analyzing drug development. They could find out: Is development becoming costlier, and if so, why? Do particular diseases encourage more or less investment and how are they affected by development timelines? Are patent extensions legitimate representations of innovation? Has the Orphan Drug Act succeeded in accelerating innovation? What disease areas face the largest gaps in investment and drug discovery?

Pharmaceutical R&D and commercialization analysts seeking to understand competitor activity and drug discovery events could answer: How are competitors accelerating their drug development timelines? How have patent extension regulations altered the pace of novel drug discovery? Which companies lead in drug discovery? Has time-to-first-generic-entry varied over time or by disease area?

Medicare analysts tracking drug pricing trends could determine: Is Medicare spending commensurate with the level of investment in drug research? Does Medicare see meaningful prices fluctuations or decreases post-approval? Have generics entrants meaningfully led to reductions in price?

Chance favors the prepared mind, Pasteur said. We hope this data and our efforts to help others harness it will give us all — everywhere — a better chance to live a healthier and happier life.

Thanks for reading

Justin and Marc