For discovering drug links in hashtags
Ahmed Abdeen Hamed is a biomedical research scientist at Merck. Previously, he was an interdisciplinary computer scientist in the University of Vermont's Social-Ecological Gaming and Simulation Lab, where he built tools to help doctors, researchers, and pharmaceutical companies. One of the lab's projects involved mining data on Twitter and other social media sites to find unknown dangerous drug interactions before they were reported in medical research libraries. Hamed and his research team developed a computer program to search millions of tweets for names of drugs and build a map of how they’re connected. The program looked for possible connections between things like colon cancer and marijuana, as well as alcohol and oxidative damage (thought to play a role in Alzheimer’s). Hamed also developed an online database that allowed researchers to look for linkages across social media and the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed archive of studies for potential drug side effects that patients share—an initiative he hopes will one day function as an early warning system.