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IU to offer data science courses using real clinical trial data
May 2016
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—Indiana University will team up with Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. to offer one of the country’s first data sciences courses employing real-world clinical trial data, the university announced in March.
 
The course will be offered as a four-week summer class starting May 2 through the data science master’s degree program at the IU School of Informatics and Computing. It will provide students a rare opportunity to practice the advanced analysis of clinical trial data using real-life, anonymized information collected from human subjects during the safe testing of potential new drugs.
 
“Data science has been called ‘the sexiest job of the 21st century,’“ said David Wild, director of Data Science Academic Programs in the IU School of Informatics and Computing and lead instructor for the course. “Those trained to analyze, visualize and report on data can look forward to promising careers in a rapidly growing field. A course based on real-life clinical data from one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies will greatly enhance IU’s offerings in this growing area of the information economy.”
 
Data science cuts across a number of business sectors that generate enormous amounts of data, including industries in technology, insurance, defense, retail and healthcare. Students enrolled in the new summer course will gain hands-on instruction in understanding, refining and analyzing real-world data of the type used by pharmaceutical companies in determining major business decisions on drug development.
 
The value of the course is enhanced by the fact that use of real clinical trial data in the educational environment remains relatively rare due in part to the efforts required to ensure patient privacy. All data used in the IU course will undergo a rigorous de-identification process before release. Strict guidelines will also dictate how the data can be used and where it can be stored.
 
IU’s lead collaborator on the course is Sara Bigelow, a clinical data associate at Lilly, who is one of the first graduates of the data science program at IU and a former student of Wild’s.
 
“Our goal is for students to gain a better understanding of the overall drug development process, and specifically the human clinical trial phases,” Bigelow said. “This includes gaining knowledge on the data side of the process—where the data comes from, where it goes, how it’s used and why it’s so important not only to clinical trial research but also the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. Another key takeaway will be awareness about the privacy process involved in working with patient data.”

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