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Health Sustainability: Cross-disciplinary, Collaborative Platform for Precision Health Big Data Launches

To assist the government in building a national big data health system and a beneficial platform for sharing information, strengthening existing biotechnology and pharmaceutical research and industry, and driving the development of emerging industries and new medical technology services, NARLabs' National Center for High‑performance Computing (NCHC) utechnologyinistry of Science and Technology (MOST) is helping to create an accessible national platform for biomedical data analysis and sharing using national high-speed network services and cloud computing facilities. The NCHC is also collaborating with Taiwan Biobank of Academia Sinica and the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) to provide the large-scale computational analysis and distribution services needed for biological databases to lay the foundation for the practice of precision health.

Currently, the Taiwan Biobank of Academia Sinica is already working with NARLabs' NCHC to conduct next-gen gene sequencing and database analysis research using the NCHC's high-efficiency computing environment and provide academic and medical research units for more multifaceted medical R&D. Under the government's active efforts to integrate national-level biological databases, the NHRI's platform for integration consolidates 35 biological databases officially approved by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which, through cooperation with the NCHC, will help the government handle public use and sharing of big data in genomics.

Genetic sequencing data for one person requires 200 GB, and about 700 GB of scratchpad memory is required to run computations, which cannot be handled by ordinary computers. However, the NCHC's accessible national platform for biomedical data analysis and sharing can provide up to 6 TB (6,000 GB) or more of memory and at least 4 PB (4,000 TB) of temporary storage space for high-speed computing, as well as 4 PB or more of cloud hard disk space for high-speed downloads and uploads. This can meet the technical requirements for gene sequencing and biomedical image analysis, aid in data distribution and management of biological databases, and ensure data security and availability.

As for the linking and utilization of Taiwan's biological databases, Professor Chen Chien-Jen of Academia Sinica expressed that no good biomedical research laboratory will go it alone, all research needs to be integrated across different technologies, and through technology as a catalyst, all biomedical and database research can achieve successful integrated use.

Minister of Science and Technology Wu Tsung-tsong indicated that big data from biological databases combined with artificial intelligence is an important part of precision health solutions from prevention and diagnosis to treatment and care. When every biological database becomes connected, Taiwan will have a greater voice in response to international demand and cooperation.

NHRI Vice President Huey-Kang Sytwu explained that in the past, pharmaceutical R&D was mainly focused on the collective. In the future, through comprehensive biological databases of genes, proteins, or microbial analyses of individuals, there is a great opportunity to truly practice precision medicine.

Dr. Te-Chang Lee, Principle Investigator of Academia Sinica's Taiwan Biobank, also said that the most important thing about biological databases is that they can do something for the health of Taiwan's next generation, with data on the environment in addition to individuals themselves. In this way, we will not only understand disease, but also have information on how to protect the health of individuals.

Since the national biological database integration project was launched, over 450,000 participants have registered and over 1 million specimens and units of clinical data have been accumulated. In the future, Taiwan's academic, research, and industrial sectors can use the completed network of immense and diverse databases as sources of research to help strengthen biomedical R&D capabilities, significantly improve medical technology, and have the opportunity to further understand the possible causes and evolutionary processes of disease. Precision health can then be brought to fruition in three major areas: personalization, prevention, and prediction.

In accordance with Taiwan's strategic industry policy for precision health, the Ministries of Science and Technology, Health and Welfare, and Economic Affairs officially launched the inter-ministerial "Big Data Health Sustainability Platform" strategic plan this year. This plan leverages the core capabilities of the Ministries and the nation's existing strengths to create the blueprint for precision health in Taiwan, lay the foundation for a big data health sustainability platform, develop clinical translation for Taiwan's precision health, and promote the innovation of medical and health industry applications and services as well as international links. Through the implementation of the project, the government hopes to improve the health and well-being of the people of Taiwan while taking into account the quality and expenditure of medical care and promoting industry development. MOST will participate in the project by establishing consistency and structure in genetic data, medical images, digital pathology, and electronic records of major diseases through various medical centers and setting up a large-scale biomedical database in NARLabs' NCHC for research-oriented and prescient data collection. MOST will also provide an accessible platform for biomedical data analysis and sharing and promote the development of translational medical research and the health and well-being of the people of Taiwan through big data exploration.

Official website for the project: