Researcher Profile:  Andrew G. McArthur on Big Data at McMaster

Researcher Profile: Andrew G. McArthur on Big Data at McMaster

I’m Andrew Mcarthur . I’m a data scientist at
McMaster University working in the Health Sciences What we’re trying to do is
create a data rich world so we can combat the burden of drug-resistant bacteria.
Drug resistance is a rapidly increasing crisis. In the UK it’s put at the level of global terrorism. There’s an executive order in the US to combat drug resistance and what we really want to generate is a surveillance state for
bacteria, to know what they’re doing, how they’re evolving, and how they’re making us ill. The current estimate for drug resistance is in the tens of thousands, but expected to be in the tens of millions by 2050, affecting up to three to four per cent global domestic product. So it is an economic and political, as well as a medical crisis. Drug resistance is actually an evolutionary problem. Bacteria get better and better at
fighting the drugs we use. We’re rapidly running out of drugs. We have numerous infectious pathogens that we can no longer treat. We’re facing a future where we can’t even perform routine surgeries like hip replacement because of resistant bacteria. What we’re trying to do is use DNA sequencing down at the hospital and clinic level, instead of being a rarely used exercise, to have it done at a clinical diagnosis. Genomes, or DNA, contain all the vital information we need to track
drug resistance, to understand its’ evolution, and to eventually overcome it. So
our lab works to build the software and the computing environment that you need when
you collect that DNA, at every clinic and every hospital. So we’re very much at the
beginning. The use of DNA and genomes to track microbial resistance is
at its infancy. It is being used by public health, as well as clinical researchers,
but what we’re building is an environment where we can spread that to every
community, in every hospital setting, and then it becomes a continuous collection
of data instead of a periodic collection of data. This is a collective effort. This
involves government ,industry, academics. It involves many countries, many researchers,
all of us contributing and trying to build this world. McMaster is unique.
McMaster is the home of evidence-based medicine. They invented the use of
evidence in medical practice. Big data is the next round of evidence to inform clinical practice. There is no better home than McMaster to merge these two historic events. When they’re brought together, with members of our community, McMaster’s researchers will generate
ideas of enormous power. Big ideas can build better cities.

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