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Five Questions with Healthcare Data Expert Dave John

July 18, 2019

Dave John joined iSpecimen last month as vice president of product management. Dave is a life sciences data and informatics expert with extensive experience developing solutions for genomics, translational medicine, clinical trials and electronic health records. He will help shape future capabilities of the iSpecimen Marketplace.

1. You are a data expert. How does data relate to streamlining the procurement of biospecimens for research?

Using data to identify and procure specimens is nothing new. Traditionally, the process has been manual and required significant effort for each request, yielding long lead times to place orders and significant time investment from researchers. By getting the data up front, we harmonize and enrich the data to make it searchable by researchers. As a result, researchers can identify what they are looking for quickly and partners don’t need to spend time digging into data to determine if they can complete a request. Having the data up front and ready to be searched reduces the effort to procure specimens substantially.

2. iSpecimen enables access to more than 25 million human biospecimens. If we have data about each specimen and each patient who donated it (though no identifying data), we would have a lot of valuable information. What could we do with it?

In addition to expediting the process of identifying and procuring specimens, data can be used to help biobanks determine which specimens researchers need and what they need to store. Additionally, there are significant opportunities to enable research with data independent of the specimens. The data we are gathering is classified as Real World Data (RWD). RWD supports clinical trial design and enrollment, monitoring drug safety and adverse events (pharmacovigilance), Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR), and countless other applications. The data iSpecimen accesses can be used to improve the quality and reduce the cost of healthcare by enabling more effective research in healthcare.

3. How will data science figure into the evolution of the iSpecimen Marketplace over the next five years? Or 25 years?

Data science and real world data are enabling researchers to predict, prevent, and treat diseases more effectively and at lower cost than learning through experiments on animals or humans alone. Given iSpecimen’s mission to help accelerate medical research by connecting researchers to patients, samples, and data, providing access to larger data sets will grow in importance to the company and its client base. As a result, the iSpecimen Marketplace will evolve to support an ever-expanding amount of real world data to ensure that iSpecimen can help researchers acquire the samples and data they need to expedite research.

4. How else will data improve health care?

Data is already being used to support precision medicine, pharmacovigilance, predicting and preventing epidemics, and disease diagnosis and treatment. However, we can go far beyond that. As a nation, we spend a huge amount of the expenditures in health care on preventable diseases. As we use data to identify how to prevent these diseases, we have the potential to change health education, food and health policy, and other factors that could dramatically improve the overall health of our population.

5. What do you do when you’re not working with life sciences data?

I spend as much time as I can unplugged from technology and enjoying time with my family. That entails summer hiking and camping trips, winter ski trips, coaching or watching kids sports, or just getting out for a walk on local trails. When I’m not focused on the family, I’m training for a triathlon or running race. Regardless of what I’m doing, I stay active and in nature as much as possible.