Big data means big medical breakthroughs

Penn State builds data center dedicated to medical research

With a planned investment of $54 million, Penn State Hershey ceremonially broke ground for a new data center dedicated to making use of big data to enhance medical research and patient care potential. The 46,000 sq ft facility is expected to be online by April 2016.

Digital rendering of the new data center

The secured, centralized space will give the University Technology center the ability to support the data center IT equipment necessary for not only the storage of accumulated data but also the processing power necessary to parse, analyze, and manipulate the data enabling the goal of being able to enhance patient care by more effective processing of the clinical information acquired. This will allow the university to more effectively predict and model diseases and disease behaviors.

Dr. A. Craig Hillemeier, dean of the Penn State College of Medicine, CEO of Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Health System, and senior vice president for health affairs for Penn State, pointed out that the future of medicine will require the ability to do detailed analysis on big data: "Two of the biggest factors in modern health care are personalized medicine and population health, and the common denominator with both is the ability to gather and analyze large volumes of rich health data."

Penn State medical researchers already have a large depository of patient samples being used by the Penn State Hershey Institute for Personalized Medicine, which is working on ways to develop more individualized forms of medical therapy. The data center will be another tool for these researchers.

On the data center side, the facility is being built with LEED certification in mind for the building as well as plans for cutting-edge power saving and energy efficiency technologies to be implemented to minimize the costs associated with day to day operation. The plans are in place to also achieve Uptime Institute Tier III certification for the data center. It will also become the primary backup site for Penn State's main data center facility, to enable disaster recovery and business continuity within the Penn State computing infrastructure.