With $7M contract, NIH taps big data analysis platform Palantir to streamline health research

Palantir, which is best known for its work in other industries, will deploy software able to automatically aggregate research data from public and private sources into a single interface.
By Dave Muoio
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What happened

Silicon Valley-area big data analytics company Palantir Technologies, founded by Peter Thiel, has signed a $7 million contract with the National Institutes of Health to supply its software platform to the organization.

Specifically, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCAT) and its related groups will be using the tech to automatically aggregate research data from public and private sources into a single interface, allowing for more streamlined analysis.

Why it matters

Because NCAT’s research data comes from a variety of sources and in a number of forms, Andrew Girvin, Palantir's head of biomedical R&D, said that his company's automatic platform will help the center's researchers interpret data that was previously disparate as part of a collective whole, and thereby achieve new insights. For Palantir, the three-year contract represents a vote of confidence from the government, as well as another push into the healthcare and biosciences market.

On the record

Although it may be best known for its services in other sectors — energy, airline engineering, and counter fraud, to name a few — the company isn't new to healthcare and the practice of consolidating health research data is not actually all that different for Palantir, Andrew Girvin, the company's head of biomedical R&D, told MobiHealthNews.

“In healthcare, the data just happens to be different from the other verticals,” he said. “We’re looking at data from next-generation sequencing, proteomics from mass [spectrometry] instruments, epigenomics, high-throughput drug screening, and then we’re looking at each of these sources in the public and private domain, bringing them together to ultimately help people answer questions of a couple flavors, one of which has to do with precision medicine.”

What is the trend

Girvin said that this latest contract follows up his company’s previous healthcare data-related work with cancer centers, drug discovery groups, and the FDA. The NIH, meanwhile, is currently launching one of the most ambitious big data initiatives in history.

Outside of these two players, there’s been no shortage of groups employing data consolidation and analysis platforms, whether they be for disease research, precision medicine, or patient population insights