The Food and Drug Administration is in the market for a data mining tool that will gather information on adverse reactions to vaccines and other drugs, according to solicitation documents posted Monday.
The agency expects the new tool to collect better information about potential problems with drugs that FDA already has approved or that it may approve in the future, and that are being used in other nations, according to the request for information.
Federal agencies are increasingly relying on commercial data analysis tools to gather research information. In many cases, this includes tools to analyze so-called big data, a term for information that doesn’t fit neatly into a spreadsheet or some other schema.
Advances during the past decade have enabled computers to analyze much larger data sets in more dynamic ways.
Biological research to track patient outcomes and the spread of diseases has been one of the primary investments to date in government big data analysis, Bob Gourley, chief technology officer at the consultancy Crucial Point, said during a Web presentation Tuesday.
Other uses of big data analysis in government include monitoring computer systems to spot, analyze and prevent cyberattacks, fraud-spotting systems for government payments, and initiating programs to deliver location-specific information to soldiers and emergency responders, he said.
The White House has invested $200 million in big data research through federal science agencies.
“We have problems of war and peace, problems with the economy, problems of resources and the environment, problems of overpopulation, and all of those problems today have data associated with them,” Gourley said. “All of them need smart solutions and better analysis . . . to help solve those challenges.”