Data warehouse for translational research

Long-term collaboration between Windber Research Institute and IDBS has implications for breast cancer research

Amy Swinderman
WINDBER, Pa.—A rare but successful translational researchcollaboration between data management provider IDBS and nonprofit researchorganization Windber Research Institute (WRI), detailed in a recent joint paperin the Journal of Biomedical Informatics,is expected to yield personalized cancer therapies and improve patientoutcomes.
A multidisciplinary team of clinicians, scientists, softwaredevelopers and biomedical informaticians tackled the daunting challenges ofdata gathering and analysis challenges, which are often said to placebiomedical research years behind the results this growing field seeks.
The WRI is a nonprofit research organization founded morethan a decade ago after U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa. and then-chairman of theU.S. House of Representatives Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, wasapproached by a concerned group of military spouses regarding the healthcare ofwomen serving in the military—and in breast care, in particular. Murtha decidedto support funding for this cause, and the Clinical Breast Care Project atWalter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., was born. Using amultidisciplinary approach that brings together prevention, screening,diagnostics, treatment and continuing care, the project integrates advances inrisk reduction, biomedical informatics, tissue banking and translationalresearch.
The relationship between Windber and Walter Reed expandedrapidly, and the WRI is today considered to be one of the world's leadinggenetic research labs. Like many who work in the field of biomedicalinformatics, the WRI's researchers needed to integrate all of the data theyacquired from multiple platforms and make them usable at the point ofneed—functions that are critical to the success of translational research.
However, the organization encountered significant challengesin developing a comprehensive data warehouse system to meet the needs oftranslational research, including the importance of handling temporalinformation.
Now, in a study titled "DW4TR: A Data Warehouse forTranslational Research" that was published in the December 2011 issue of TheJournal of Biomedical Informatics, thegroups describe the development of a novel system that meets those challengesfrom data model to interface.
Working with Walter Reed, the WRI and IDBS created acomprehensive data warehouse composed of a complex set of approximately 1,000detailed breast cancer attributes, including risk factors, patient history,pathology and treatment. Called the Data Warehousing for Translational Researchsystem, or DW4TR, the warehouse integrates multiple data points on cancerattributes such as risk factors, patient history and treatment, and makes thisinformation available in a single source to give scientists the informationthey need for research into translational medicine or for clinical risk assessment.
With all these clinico-pathological data now available in asingle source, scientists can query across the information to support multipleresearch goals, whether for translational medicine or clinical risk assessment,says Dr. Hai Hu, deputy chief scientific officer and senior director ofbiomedical informatics at the WRI.
"This is really a dream environment that many people wouldlike to have," says Hu. "When you combine very different perspectives anddifferent languages that have to be translated and achieve these two things,you have success. Such a collaborative environment is critical to the successof translational research, and to achieve that is not always easy."
The software development and implementation was done byInforSense, which was acquired by IDBS in July 2009. Designing and implementingthe DW4TR posed a number of engineering challenges, but by borrowing manyconcepts from traditional business intelligence projects and applying thosemethods effectively to longitudinal clinical data, IDBS was able to combinedata modeling and user interfaces, says Dr. Paul Denny-Gouldson, vice presidentof translational medicine at IDBS.
"This type of data management system enables you to get frombench to bedside, then back to the bench," he notes. "You may not have everyonein one single environment, but we're now able to link them together and providean ecosystem of data capture and integration in one environment."
Now that the academic value of the DW4TR has beendemonstrated, "the system has already enabled us to expand into other studies,and we are also seeking extramural funding," says Hu.
Headquartered in Guilford, U.K., IDBS' platform technologiesare used by more than 200 pharmaceutical companies, major healthcare providers,global leaders in academic study and high-tech companies to increaseefficiency, reduce costs and improve the productivity of industrial R&D andclinical research.

IDBS, Royal Society of Chemistry automate onlinepublishing of chemistry research
GUILDFORD, U.K.—IDBS also recently announced the release ofreal-time publication capability for research chemists directly from itselectronic notebook. According to IDBS, the approach enables researchers topublish their chemistry data to send it directly to the ChemSpider onlinecompound database, providing "seamless access to the most comprehensive view offreely available chemical data."
According to IDBS, researchers using E-WorkBook can nowconnect to ChemSpider to share and reuse their work, eliminating unnecessaryrepeated experiments "and providing valuable contributions to the world'sknowledge of chemistry." The capability was co-developed by the Royal Societyof Chemistry in partnership with the University of Cambridge, and is freelyavailable to all users of E-WorkBook. 
"Much of chemistry research is essentially lost, with manyresults simply not published and left languishing in forgotten lab notebooks,"said Prof. Robert Glen, professor of molecular sciences informatics anddirector of the Unilever Centre for Molecular Sciences Informatics atUniversity of Cambridge, in a press release. "Now, capturing novel moleculessoon after synthesis on a searchable database like ChemSpider is an effortlessprocess driven directly from the electronic laboratory notebook. This willencourage sharing of compounds, synthetic methods and all the associated data,and will significantly increase collaboration and cut research time. It'sinstant messaging for chemists."
The Royal Society of Chemistry is the United Kingdom'sprofessional body for chemical scientists and an international learned societyfor the chemical sciences. With more than 48,000 members worldwide, the societyis a major international publisher of chemical information.

Amy Swinderman

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