Oracle injects genomics capability into analytics platform

Oracle ($ORCL) wants to help drug researchers tap and analyze genomic data that are vital to the development of personalized therapies, which have already become key weapons in the war on cancer. The software giant plans to announce today how the company plans to do this with a new "omics" databank that becomes the newest addition to a health data aggregation and analytics platform unveiled in September.

The databank bridges a gap in the original release of the platform, dubbed Oracle Health Sciences Translational Research Center, which initially focused on enabling analysis of electronic medical record (EMR) info but lacked the same capabilities for genomics data, Kris Joshi, the company's VP of healthcare product strategy, told FierceBiotech IT. Now the platform adds the new "Omics Data Bank" to integrate DNA sequencing and gene-expression data, which can come from users' own internal labs and external sources such as large public datasets.

It's a key step for Oracle in healthcare. Drug companies, a prime customer base for the translational research software, have become increasingly reliant on next-generation sequencing (NGS) data for research of drugs and diagnostics that serve specific patients based on their genetic traits. A great example of this is how Pfizer's ($PFE) recently approved lung cancer drug Xalkori calls for patients to be screened for anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene expression before they take the med. With the new omics databank, Oracle wants researchers and investigators to be able to analyze patient disease and genomic data in a matter of seconds, shedding light on, say, whether the patient is a match for a drug study.

"It's really the cornerstone of our data integration and analytics strategy because it gets us close to being able to deliver real-time analytics," Oracle's Joshi said in an interview. "When you have such large volumes of data, one of the traditional models for analyzing that data has been to take high-performance computing ... and use algorithms that churn for weeks and days and actually produce insights. This doesn't completely make those kinds of algorithms redundant, but it provides a unique way of providing almost a real-time response in scanning across these very large datasets. We've highly optimized this so that physicians in 10 seconds can get the answers they want ... without running the big complex algorithms."

Oracle is marketing the platform to drugmakers, contract research organizations (CROs) and academic research centers. Joshi said the platform provides the technical backbone for a pilot electronic clinical research network under way in New York state as part of the Partnerships to Advance Clinical Electronic Research (PACeR). One of the benefits of the network is enabling researchers to conduct searchers of electronic records to find patients for clinical studies, and drugmakers such as Pfizer, Merck ($MRK), Roche ($RHHBY) are backing the effort and willing to pay large sums for such searches.

- here's Oracle's release