Defense contractor Northrop Grumman and the University of Maryland Baltimore County are teaming to analyze the health data of people suffering various maladies with the goal of improving medical care, the company announced Tuesday.
The five-year program, supported by about $600,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation, builds on a cybersecurity partnership between the university and the Falls Church-based contractor. The grants support big data-analytics projects to advance science and technology.
Using the same tools that were developed to analyze cyberthreats and security risks, Northrop and the university plan to study electronic health records to gain insights on diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease, said Amy Caro, vice president and general manager of Northrop’s health division.
Researchers plan to analyze decades’ worth of medical information from millions of patients in public and private databases, said Yelena Yesha, who is leading the project and is a professor of computer science at the university.
This isn’t Northrop Grumman’s first health-related partnership. The company teamed with Johns Hopkins University in 2013 to set up a business accelerator for health-care start-ups.
The defense company’s experience in data mining and keeping information secure for government and commercial clients can also be applied to health-care analytics, Caro said.
Another focus area for the group is precision medicine — health care tailored to an individual’s genetic makeup — which many defense contractors, including Northrop and Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, see as a growing business.
By studying genetic data for large populations, health-care workers aim to spot trends and design more-effective treatments, said Sam Shekar, Northrop’s chief medical officer.
The company has combined its analytics software with a cloud-computing platform designed by Google to analyze large volumes of genetic data for researchers. The same technology will be used in the partnership.
Lockheed announced a similar venture with California genome sequencing company Illumina last year to study the human genome.
Northrop plans to use the research to bolster its health-care offerings for clients, Caro said.