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Harvard Journal of Law & Technology, Vol. 28, No. 2 Spring 2015
W. Nicholson Price II (Academic Fellow alumnus)

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Petrie-Flom Academic Fellow alumnus Nicholson Price, now an Assistant Professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, has recently published an article in the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology on a development in personalized medicine that he calls "black ­box medicine," which he defines as the use of opaque computational models to make decisions related to health care. From the article: 

This Article introduces into legal scholarship the concept of black­box medicine, which I define as the use of opaque computational models to make decisions related to health care. Black­box medicine, pursued by geneticists, personalized medicine advocates, and other health care innovators, already does and increasingly will use the combination of large­scale high­quality datasets with sophisticated predictive algorithms to identify and use implicit, complex connections between multiple patient characteristics. A defining feature of black­box medicine is that those algorithms are non­transparent — that is, the relationships they capture cannot be explicitly understood, and sometimes cannot even be explicitly stated. Note that this type of medicine is “black­box” to everyone by nature of its development; it is not “black­box” because its workings are deliberately hidden from view. By capturing complex underlying biological relationships — and by potentially allowing their use with algorithmic validation rather than relying on clinical trials — black­box medicine opens far more possibilities for shaping treatment and drug development. Although black­box medicine presents major challenges at conceptual, scientific, and legal levels, it also offers a faster path to medical advances that might otherwise lie many decades in the future. 

biotechnology health information technology health law policy human subjects research regulation