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FDA Hops On Big Data Bandwagon

Dynamics Research Corp wins five-year, $50 million federal contract to help bolster food and drug safety, scientific collaboration.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has awarded a five-year contract, worth as much as $50 million, to Dynamics Research Corp. (DRC) to prepare the agency's scientific computing capabilities for the big data era. The project will support collaboration among scientists inside and outside the FDA in about a half-dozen areas including drugs, medical devices, tobacco and food safety.

The contract actually began in September, but DRC announced the award this week. It stems in part from a 2011 FDA report spelling out an agency-wide strategy and imperative to beef up predictive analytics and data sharing to keep tabs on an increasingly complex, global product universe.

The FDA continues to widen the scope of its regulatory authority, and recently started to move into mobile health applications. According to the 2011 report, a quarter of all U.S. consumer spending goes to products the FDA regulates.

"The FDA mission has to be getting ahead of the game in terms of safety," DRC's senior VP and general manager Paul Strasser told InformationWeek Healthcare. The mission and the workload have evolved as more and more products fall under the agency's jurisdiction. "It's really a rapid increase in data as well," Strasser added.

[ Is it time to re-engineer your clinical decision support system? See 10 Innovative Clinical Decision Support Programs. ]

FDA may have to look at modernizing its whole IT infrastructure because of all the information flowing across its platforms, and better analytics is part of that, according to Strasser, though the immediate need is to keep the scientific community working. "We have to enable these scientists" for worldwide collaboration, Strasser said.

The award is built around specific work statements, according to Strasser. DRC, based in Andover, Mass., will support the integrated project team at the FDA's Office of Information Management. The contract contains individual task orders for various FDA branches, including the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, and the Center for Tobacco Products.

"We're part of the team to keep drugs and food safe for Americans," Strasser said.

DRC won the contract via its High Performance Technologies subsidiary. The company provides analytics services to numerous federal departments and agencies, including the Military Health System and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the two largest federal healthcare provider organizations. DRC also has contracts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Much of the company's expertise is in scientific computing, such as for the Department of Defense and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2013 | 6:08:34 AM
re: FDA Hops On Big Data Bandwagon
I understand the FDA's function but I'm a little confused how big data in this case will be helfpul or beneficial. I suppose it depends on what type of data is being collected and what kind of analysis they will do on it.

Jay Simmons
Information Week Contributor
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