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WRI, SCBIT work to create translational medicine standards
July 2006
by Randall C. Willis  |  Email the author
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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.
 
"The real issue is to make sure that when a physician is treating a patient, they can have access to the best medical knowledge and prac­tice available, regardless of where they are, as well as contribute the clinical perspective of gaps in that knowledge to take back to the lab­oratory for further research," he concludes.
 
Code: E070607

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