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The big data revolution, which has changed various industries, is also reaching the world of higher education. Startup BeaconCure was founded 18 months ago on the basis of combining information technologies with bioinformatics. High tech veterans CEO Yoran Bar and CPO Ilan Carmeli, who previously worked in advertising and educational technologies, founded BeaconCure. One investor in the company is Noam Stern-Perry, a shareholder in algorithmic trading company Final. The company has three goals: to help researchers easily find articles and research grant proposals relevant to their fields, to distinguish between articles that are good science and those that are bad science, and in the future to develop a “scientist” algorithm that can devise a research hypothesis and examine it by itself.
“We started out with Noam’s blessing,” Bar says. “We decided to check whether there was a way with a business model that could help research into rare diseases. We started to investigate how companies and investment funds in the rare diseases segment operate, but we gradually realized that this was not our field. This segment requires very large and rich funds and a lot of expertise.”
How can the knowledge accumulated in advertising optimization be converted for the medical sector? Bar and Carmeli persisted, and decided to develop a search engine that would mine information from medical research. “Today, access to life sciences research information is considered either impossible or, if possible, very expensive. Even if there is enough money to buy access to all the articles, and all the existing search engines are used, such as Thomson Reuters or Google Scholar, you are likely to get either 5,000 results that cannot be prioritized, or nothing. Even the commercialization companies at universities do not always know what they have in their own backyard,” Bar says.
Meanwhile, a new problem is arising – the reproducibility problem, also referred to as the crisis of reproducibility. This is a polite way of saying that many trials produce good results only in the laboratory of the original researcher who conducted them, not in the real world. “A researcher at a university or a small biotech company wants to know whether other trials support their research hypotheses. They want to know which trials were good and reproducible,” Bar explains.
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The choice between reproducible trials and bad trials is now a matter of widespread discussion that has grabbed the attention, for example, of young billionaire John Arnold, who made his money at Enron, but whose name was not linked to the scandal that brought the company down. Arnold and his wife, Laura, founded a fund to support technologies designed to make science more accurate and less biased. For example, they support a system in which researchers can register all of their hypotheses and trials, so that it will be more difficult to twist, cook, or conceal the results later. Mark Zuckerberg also expressed interest in
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