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Big Data In The Military: Integrating Genomics into the Pipeline of Standard-care Testing & Treatment

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Human Factors and Medicine

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Big Data, capabilities, computational power, Genomics, health, Military, NextGeneration Sequencing, resilience


The ability to keep up with detection, prevention and treatment of illnesses and/or diseases developed as a result of operational stressors remains one of the biggest challenges to all military forces. The purpose of this RTG is to integrate high-throughput computational power with genomics as a viable tool to implement in military medicine to overcome this challenge. However, generating a global repository of indispensable knowledge from multiple NATO nations is another challenge. The Exploratory Team (ET-155) identified a set of topics, which need to be clearly addressed in order to effectively use this tool (high-throughput computational power with genomics) in a collaborative effort with multiple nations. As a result, it is proposed that the RTG focus on establishing the infrastructure and addressing the major challenges faced with the generation of Big Data on a global scale. Too often we are dealing with the effect and sequelae of operational stress injuries and illnesses, resulting in unnecessary consumed resources and time. Through the use of this tool and with multiple sources of information regarding the effect of operational stressors on a soldier’s health and performance, we are in a position to push the frontiers of military medical research in a short amount of time. The genome linked with health data would provide military medicine the integrative platform whereby mental and physical performance can be examined through an evidence-based approach.


The main goal of this RTG is to prove the feasibility and value with use of high-computational power + genomics as a tool. Therefore the sub- objectives, as per RTG year, are as follows: Year-1 (Oct’17 to Oct’18): Identify and address challenges - October 2017: the RTG will kick-off with a Workshop and will include experts & participating nations only; - October 2017 to March 2018: Establish active committee (team of expertise for high-computational power and genomics) with roles and responsibilities. Year-2 (Oct’18 to Oct’19): Execute a Pilot Study - the tool (high-computational power + genomics) will be tested in a pilot study. The project will be identified at the onset of the RTG and will have a well-defined problem and design. - April 2018: RTG committee will have identified an NATO wide health issue for a pilot study & Human Research Ethics Board approval obtained; - June 2018: RTG committee will convene to discuss the study’s outline, Nation’s roles & responsibilities etc. - October 2018: Pilot study should be launched by this time. - October 2018 to November 2019: Pilot study coming to a close. Year 3 (Oct’19 to Oct’20): Assess the feasibility and value (benefit) - January 2020: Completion of Pilot study (data collection & aggregation, sequencing results etc.) - February 2020 to June 2020: Bioinformatic and clinical analyses of data; - July 2020 to October 2020: Generation of reports.


All the topics to be covered center on the main question: “How To?” We appreciate the complexity of the nature behind this technology and scientific domain and that in order to recognize the benefit or value of this tool, we must first understand the essential driving components and how they must come together in perfect harmony to generate a successful outcome. As such, the ET Team identified four (4) specific topic domains. 1) In Year 1, the following four main topic domains and challenges within will be discussed and addressed: 1: Legal/Ethic – how can we apply this technology for the benefit of our soldiers/military without compromising one’s privacy and ensuring it is ethically sound? What are the legal issues or concerns with employing this tool as a regular methodology for military research and health? 2: Information Technology (IT) – within this domain there are 4 separate yet interconnected areas to be discussed. A) Hosting – B) Security – to which extent and technological expertise (encrypted etc.); C) Sharing of data – with whom and how? D) Bioinformatic Analytics – new methods of analyzing new data sets; mobile platforms collecting data; what powerful analytics are required to link clinical data with other datasets? Data storage + processing, data integration and data interpretation. 3. Genome Medicine – the extent to which this is being applied and how it will apply within a military context; the type of model for the datasets. 4. General/Clinical Medicine – how do we incorporate genomic information with clinical data? What are the privacy issues and how do we maintain one’s privacy? 2) Roles & responsibilities of participating nations - in order to ensure success, each participating nation must take on an active role with specified responsibilities; 3) NATO-wide health issue for pilot study (access to data collection, how, when, where etc.) - this will be discussed as a team with the participating NATO nations.

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