Big data and algorithms are bringing about major changes, particularly in the field of medicine and research. In recent years, technological developments have led to a dramatic increase in the volume of information collected in medical databases at any moment, via connected objects or clinical studies.

While use of this data is conducive to progress and advances in medicine – e.g. identification of disease risk factors, assistance with diagnosis and choice of treatment, prevention of epidemics – it also raises a number of questions, primarily of an ethical nature.

The emergence, in the short term, of personalised medicine based on the use of big data sets is causing medical practice to transform quite significantly. More than just a simple development, this represents a paradigm shift.

In Nantes in 2015, researchers began to exchange ideas and develop initiatives under the university’s interdisciplinary programme – Personalised Medicine and Big Data: the challenges of a new practice. Two years later, DataSanté was created. Its objective: “to co-ordinate research on the construction and use of big data sets and algorithms in precision medicine”.


Funded by the Pays de Loire regional authorities and the Université de Nantes, this five-year programme is managed by the Centre François Viète and based in the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Ange Guépin. It currently associates 50 researchers, from the region and further afield. These experts are all leading specialists in their disciplines.





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An interdisciplinary study

DataSanté was established to serve as a “space for questioning” and is led by Stéphane Tirard, Professor of Epistemology and History of Science. “Regardless of what we may think about it, the use of big data is transforming medicine and this change is rapid. The upheaval it is causing raises multiple challenges. As researchers, it is essential that we take a step back and engage in a thought process that looks beyond the scientific sphere to examine the other issues at stake:  ethical, legal and social”.

This thought process has been informed and developed over the course of a series of events (symposia, roundtables, seminars) organised by DataSanté and its partners. Its substance and originality lie in the interactions it has sparked within an extensive range of disciplines, including epistemology, history, sociology, philosophy, psychology, law, economics, computer science, biology and disciplines related to medicine. Ethical matters are given a central place.

Video recordings of events and interviews with affiliated researchers are available in an open access resource portal.

5 biomedical research programmes

DataSanté’s research is recognised in five fields, with many of its biomedical research programmes devised and coordinated by the main partners in this project.

Programmes focus on developing applications and tools to improve the diagnosis and care of patients affected by pathologies such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and Brugada syndrome.

Activities are organised according to 3 thematic areas:

  • Construction of data
  • Mathematical and algorithmic modelling
  •  Consequences and transformations in medicine

The programme associates doctoral and postdoctoral researchers and research engineers. It also plans to develop shared, multi-disciplinary courses across universities in the Pays de la Loire region.

Objectives and reach

DataSanté’s goal is to establish a formal network of expertise in the field of Health and Big Data in the Pays de la Loire, and to create a national research group. In the long term, on the strength of original publications, the consortium’s members hope that their findings will have an international influence and position the research group and DataSanté on the European map.