Digital Me TEDx Auckland Talk and Presentation

May 5, 2016 Ian McCrae

I’m passionate about the role that technology can play in making highly personalised healthcare for individuals a reality – worldwide.

Precision medicine is super exciting. It will transform the practice of medicine into a mathematical science, which for a lapsed mathematician like me, means that health just got even more interesting.

At TEDx Auckland, I’m going to (hopefully) wow the audience with what all this means. And I’m putting myself out there to do it. I’ve had my genome mapped and I know that I’m made up of about two terrabytes of data. And that data comes from lots of different sources: 

  • Clinical imaging of my hip when I needed a replacement a few years ago;
  • Clinical data from my health experiences;
  • My all-important genome (which says I’m 2.2% Neanderthal) and have the double happy gene (I’m not a firecracker – I’m annoyingly upbeat);
  • My microbiome, which is the bacteria in my body that affects my physiology;
  • My metabolome, which is how I metabolise nutrients and toxins;
  • My epigenome, which is how my family history has impacted my DNA…and many more.

Not to mention the devices I wear that can tell all sorts of information about me – my Apple Watch for my steps, heart rate and sleep; my Withing’s scales for my weight and body fat…and one day my shoes for an analysis of my biomechanics and posture.

All of this information is really important. It’s what makes me me. It’s what determines the likelihood I’ll develop a certain condition and how I’ll respond to certain treatments.

How can any clinician make the best healthcare decision for me without knowing all this information? Without understanding the Digital Me? Today, and in the future, a tsunami of data will be upon our doctors – and they will need the right technological infrastructure to make sense of that data.

Dr Eric Green, the Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute in the USA, says: “What we think of as modern medicine will look like primitive guesswork as we start to understand the factors that make a treatment perfect for one person yet completely ineffective for another.”

Precision medicine will be as influential on healthcare as other innovations like the Smallpox vaccine and invention of penicillin were. One day – soon – we will all know our Digital Me and what we each need to live longer, healthier and happier lives.

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