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The Dawn of a European Health Data Space – Opportunities

Posted on July 9th, 2020 by in Pharma R&D

At the beginning of 2020, the European Commission introduced a “European strategy for data.” The document proposes to bolster and advance the data economy in Europe with a view towards capturing “the benefits of better use of data, including greater productivity and competitive markets, but also improvements in health and well-being, environment, transparent governance and convenient public services.”

Salient was the announcement’s inclusionary language, that “data should be available to all – whether public or private, big or small, start-up or giant.” Also revealing was its concurrent release with a White Paper on artificial intelligence (AI). The EC recognizes that diverse data come from across sectors and are intimately entwined with AI – one cannot exist without the other. Just as abundant, high-quality data are an absolute requisite for meaningful AI, the potential of AI drives today’s value and use of big data.

One pillar of the EU data strategy is the establishment of common European data spaces in domains of public interest. Among those is health data, with two broad action items carefully embedded in the context of GDPR:

  • Create legislature to strengthen citizen access to and portability of their own health data, as well as a code of conduct for processing those data in the healthcare sector.
  • Deploy infrastructure that supports interoperability of electronic health records, federated data repositories, genomic information, medical images, laboratory results, prescriptions and other documentation to not only ease healthcare administration, but also foster research and innovation toward discovering, regulating and legislating effective therapies that prevent, diagnose and treat diseases.

Altogether, this as an opportunity. The EC envisions constructing an ecosystem of experimentation, creativity and differentiation to produce new businesses (think: BenevolentAI) and data-based tools that, for example, yield novel antibiotics, predict synergistic combination therapies for cancer, or discover drug candidates to repurpose for rare diseases.

Recently, we’ve developed and nurtured open data aggregations as our contribution to the global response against SARS-CoV-2. The COVID-19 Mendeley Data and Coronavirus Research Hub may offer ideas on how to institutionalize data spaces. We are looking for partners to develop this concept and start a dialogue from which an EU data space can evolve. Please contact my colleague Xuanyan Xu at x.xu@elsevier.com if you are interested in participating.

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