Hong Kong billionaire backs Big Data effort in biomedicine at Oxford University

Oxford University is marshaling money and scientists to explore massive datasets to uncover knowledge about diseases and treatments. And Li Ka-shing, known as Asia's richest man, has backed the Big Data effort with a £20 million ($31 million) award from his eponymous foundation, helping the prestigious U.K. university establish the new Li Ka-shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery.

With £10 million from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Li Ka-shing Centre will include a Big Data Institute for analyzing large data sets from DNA sequencing, electronic health records and other sources to advance knowledge about diseases and patient treatments, according to Oxford University. Even sooner, scientists plan to move into the center for the Target Discovery Institute, which is tackling high-throughput biology to identify better drug targets in diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes and cancer, Bloomberg reported.

The Target Discovery Institute aims to dress a festering wound in drug research. Drug development failures result often from poor understanding of disease biology, which was to blame in part when Eli Lilly ($LLY) as well as Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Pfizer ($PFE) reported Phase III misfires for their respective Alzheimer's therapies last year. In a sign of the relevance of its work, the institute has scored $8 million awards from such drugmakers as Pfizer, J&J, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), Novartis ($NVS), AbbVie ($ABBV), Takeda Pharmaceutical and Eli Lilly.

Li Ka-shing, who Forbes estimated is worth $31 billion, seeks improved patient care with his foundation's donation. Development failures are expensive, and increasing the success of drug research through an improved understanding of diseases could boost patients' access to better treatments.

"The work of this center will identify innovative ways to increase access to health care while lessening the burden of cost," Li said at Oxford on May 3, as quoted by Bloomberg.

- here's an item from Oxford
- see Bloomberg's article
- and a report from the Pharma Times

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