IU to offer one of the first data science courses to use real clinical trial data

Indiana University and Eli Lilly will offer one of the first data sciences courses employing real-world clinical trial data. The course, part of IU Data Science MS program, will give students a rare opportunity to practice the advanced analysis of clinical trial data using anonymized data collected during the safe testing of potential new drugs.

Indiana University
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 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
"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."

IU's 30-credit data science master's degree program was launched in 2014 to address the growing shortage in data scientists across the U.S. A report by the McKinsey Global Institute put the gap in managers with the skills to use big data in effective decision-making at 1.5 million by 2018, and the gap in general employees with deep analytical skills at 140,000 to 190,000 over the same time period.

Data science cuts across a number of business sectors that generate enormous amounts of data, including industries in technology, insurance, defense, retail and health care. 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."

Organizers of the summer course also aim to expand the class offerings in future years, with plans such as guest lecturers from different expertise areas at Lilly.

IU's master's degree in data science is offered in on-campus, online or "blended" hybrid course options, with the blended option combining online and in-residence components. The data science course is only open to graduate students currently enrolled in the master’s program in data science.

For more information on the course, visit the IU Data Science Program Website or email data_sciences_recruiting@lilly.com.