I finally found a meaningful way to use Wolfram Alpha beyond the demo scenarios that were presented when it launched. I did a diagnostic blood test a couple of weeks ago (blood lipids, liver profiles etc.) and Wolfram Alpha can be easily told to plot your own results along with distribution of values measured from American patients, by giving a query such as “ldl cholesterol 77 35 year old male non-smoker“.
Wolfram Alpha will become more useful now, though, because they have released an API that developers can use to integrate data from Wolfram Alpha into other applications. Unfortunately, it will cost money to use it, so it will likely only be used by semi-large to large corporations.
Diagnostics are also set to become more useful than the test I did. A company called Integrated Diagnostics, with systems biology luminary Leroy Hood as one of the founders, has officially launched. They are developing an inexpensive microfluidic chip that will allow easy and sensitive blood tests that can detect early-stage diseases. Instead of looking at single disease markers, as is often done today, the company’s chip will – in the spirit of systems biology – assay several markers at once, based on the idea that “diseases arise from a perturbed network” of genes and proteins.