In the second year of the SAP HANA Award competition, German biotech company Molecular Health won with its TreatmentMap solution in the category “Technology Trailblazer – Business Application.”
Only 14 years have passed since the human genome was sequenced for the first time. Since then, billions of dollars have been spent in research. Today, the 3.4 billion base pairs of the 46 human chromosomes can be read relatively cost-effectively in just a few days. This presented the ideal foundation for biotech company Molecular Health to develop its TreatmentMAP, which became available in early 2014.
TreatmentMAP combines global biomedical knowledge with tumor genetics and additional data from a cancer patient. It analyzes an enormous amount of complex data, supporting the treating physicians in their selection of a personalized therapy. The contribution of the German genetic technology experts is that the solution uses big data analytics to propose promising therapies to the treating oncologists that match the patients’ individual constellations.
Genetic analysis plus data warehouse
Once data is available from the lab, specially certified oncologists use TreatmentMAP to analyze the genome information. This is where Molecular Health’s data warehouse comes in. Ten years ago, the company not only began collecting scientific publications and clinical studies, but also making them available centrally for analysis.
“We constantly comb the latest relevant publications, review them, and supplement our data warehouse,” explains Markus Schmitt from Molecular Health. It now contains more than 23 million publications. Hundreds of cancer indicators, 37,000 drugs, more than 90,000 clinical studies, and much more other information are curated here.
Since early 2014, Molecular Health has used TreatmentMAP to compare this collection of humanity’s biomedical knowledge with the patient’s specific genetic defects, to support physicians in recommending therapies. The crucial changes to the genome are identified with the help of TreatmentMAP. The database – which runs on SAP HANA – mines all the available information and condenses it into recommended actions and information for the physician. Up to 100 gigabytes of data can be generated for a single patient. After a few hours, the treatment options for the patient are identified. A specially certified oncologist prepares a report for the treating physician that contains the effective and ineffective treatment methods, as well as any risks of side-effects or toxicity.
Conducting many of these analyses in parallel is a technical challenge, as SAP expert Kai Sachs knows. “Our objective is to run these analyses concurrently for fifty, a hundred, or more patients,” he says, referring to “scale-out scenarios”. Assuming the 700 megabytes of “pure data” from each human DNA, thousands of people will generate a volume of many terabytes. This, in turn, creates the demand for a highly scalable solution and the necessity of using the SAP HANA platform. The analytics and calculations can be performed directly on the data to achieve the necessary throughput.
COPE: Free program for SAP employees with cancer
Currently, Molecular Health only carries out these analyses for relatively few patients in Germany, because the country’s health insurance providers do not yet cover the costs. SAP has teamed up with Molecular Health to develop the COPE program for SAP employees. COPE (Corporate Oncology Program for Employees) was launched late last year and enables eligible SAP employees with cancer to use the results from TreatmentMAP for their own treatments – as a free health benefit from SAP. COPE has been available in the U.S. and Germany since November 2014 with expansion to other countries planned.
The employer does not know who participates in the program, nor does it have any access to the patients’ analysis results. A specialized and confidential Trust Center Health at SAP verifies whether employees are entitled to participate in the COPE program and, if so, issues a cost coverage declaration, which the employee submits to his or her treating physician. The physician then contacts an oncologist certified by Molecular Health and initiates all further steps. The patient remains anonymous. Molecular Health does not use the data for any other purposes, either. “After all, we wouldn’t have any benefit from it, because the concepts for each patient are so individual,” explains Markus Schmitt, Executive Vice President Operations EMEA at Molecular Health.