WINDBER, Pa.—As part of its ongoing efforts to build an electronic infrastructure for translational medicine and technology, the Windber Research Institute (WRI) announced recently it entered into a strategic arrangement with the Shanghai Center for Bioinformation Technology (SCBIT). The pair of non-profit organizations will jointly develop data integration, data visualization and data mining technologies for use in medical research. In the long run, they hope to create global standards for data warehousing to facilitate clinical decision-making processes.
"WRI's primary focus is improving patient care and the quality of life for the patients and their family by rapidly translating molecular and clinical research," says Dr. Hai Hu, WRI's senior director of biomedical informatics. "We recognize that there is a long path to achieve this goal and we know that we cannot get there by ourselves."
"We have had extensive communications on what the two organizations are doing, and found that we share a lot of common grounds, with strengths complementary to each other", said Dr. Yi-Xue Li, SCBIT director, in a prepared statement. "In fact, through our common third partner InforSense, we have been working together on the WRI data warehouse development project. Now that a direct relationship is established between us, I expect nothing less than a highly synergic collaboration in the research and technology development for translational medicine."
WRI has experience in finding solutions to organization-wide data tracking and warehousing problems in the clinical setting. For example, WRI is working with institutes like the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to translate disparate clinical data formats into single, easily accessible, data repositories. SCBIT, meanwhile, brings extensive experience in dealing with data formats arising from different science-based efforts such as genomics, proteomics and systems biology.
"Communicating with our collaborators worldwide, we all see the need for developing a relatively universal platform for biomedical informatics research, across clinical, genomic and proteomic platforms," Hu says. "The research can be disease-centric, but the data model should be patient-centric and disease-agnostic with a modular structure to enable a rapid deployment into new disease areas as well as the ability to access best practices."
He adds that WRI will continue to lead the data model design, while SCBIT may add those modules specific to diseases in which China is a research-leader, such as liver cancer. Furthermore, the scope of medical research and practice of medical care in China differs from that in the United States, which he says is a potential advantage in biomedical informatics and translational medicine research.
Hu believes that data sharing and tool sharing are critical in the biomedical informatics research, but, he says, data models are very context-specific and are therefore often difficult to share across platforms. For this reason, says WRI Executive Director Dr. Michael Liebman, WRI expects to continue to develop compatibility with models to enable data-sharing and exchange.
"We plan to make the results of our efforts available for others to utilize and/or incorporate into their programs and are planning some commercialization efforts to extend these capabilities to industrial partners," Liebman says. He offers, as an example, WRI's involvement in Holland's Consortium for Translational Molecular Medicine, which is led by Philips Medical Systems and Organon Pharmaceuticals.