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How OptumLabs Is Tackling Alzheimer's

In this NPR podcast, Darshak Sanghavi, chief medical officer, shares how big data is helping the search for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Podcast transcript: How OptumLabs is tackling Alzheimer's

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Podcast transcript:

Using big data to tackle Alzheimer's

INTRO: Support for this podcast and the following message comes from Optum — a health services and innovation company. Here's OptumLabs’ Chief Medical Officer Darshak Sanghavi on how OptumLabs and its partners are using big data to help solve some of the biggest challenges in health care.

NARRATOR: Robots may not be replacing your doctor any time soon, but health care is undergoing a technological revolution. Researchers are now using artificial intelligence and machine learning to help people live healthier lives. Their work is fueled by the advent of Big Data, which provides a huge cache of anonymous patient histories.

DARSHAK SANGHAVI: And that information is across potentially decades — it includes everything from when people see doctors, to what their medical problems are, and then what happens to them over time.

NAR: Darshak Sanghavi is the chief medical officer of OptumLabs. It's a collaborative research and innovation center in Cambridge, Mass. Working with partners like Mayo Clinic, AARP and AMGA, they're looking for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

DS: And we have access to one of the world's largest sources of health care data — 150 million people. We have de-identified this medical information. As a result, patients' privacy is protected, and yet our partners can analyze it and see things that no one has seen before. That is increasingly how we're going to make progress in the future.

NAR: With the help of machine learning and data, OptumLabs is seeking to predict dementia and Alzheimer’s years before onset. That's something which has eluded modern medicine so far.

DS: Many, many companies and scientists have tried to develop drugs and treatments to prevent Alzheimer’s from occurring, and very few have succeeded. The problem seems to be that we're not catching it early enough. At OptumLabs we've been able to start to see those signals earlier.

NAR: And that could make a key difference in finding new treatments, or perhaps preventing the disease altogether.

DS: We recognize that complex problems can rarely be solved alone. Having this type of environment, where people can be brought together to collaborate, to share ideas, to get access to information and expertise that spans all across the spectrum of experts ... that is when discovery happens. It's about curiosity. It's about asking the right questions and finding the answers to make health care better.