Developing a software system to enable the healthcare industry to share information to advance understanding of disease is the focus of a new project.
The major European Union funded project is led by researchers from Imperial College London. It aims to enable pharmaceutical companies, governments, academia and hospitals to share information.
Imperial scientists are developing software that will enable organisations to share vital information about diseases, much in the same way that users can currently access, exchange and download information from the internet. This will be the first project of its kind in the world that will enable this information to be shared confidentially between all the major players in the healthcare industry in Europe.
Professor Yi-Ke Guo, who leads the project from the Department of Computing at Imperial College London, says:
“All around the world, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, academic institutions and governments are working on separate research collaborations to combat a range of diseases – from HIV to prostate cancer. However, due to commercial confidentiality and other restrictions, the underpinning research that leads to breakthroughs is not shared openly, which prevents researchers from gaining a deeper understanding of diseases and hampers the further development of new treatments. Our project aims to create a software platform that will enable this sharing process to happen. We believe that the technology we develop could be as revolutionary to healthcare and life science research as the web is to sharing information.”
The £20 million, five-year project is called European Translation Information and Knowledge Management Service or eTRIKS. It is part of a two billion Euro project called the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), which is Europe's largest public-private partnership that aims to speed up the development of better and safer medicines for patients.
Imperial researchers will develop the software that will support the collaborative translational research projects that are funded by IMI. It will also enable industrial and academic expert networks to form to boost pharmaceutical innovation and the development new therapies in Europe.
The software will enable researchers to access records of millions patients who have undergone clinical trials and treatments. This information could reduce research costs and enable institutions to collaborate more freely, without damaging the commercial viability of the pharmaceutical industry.
Professor Guo concludes: “Our software platform will use the latest advances such as cloud and Big Data technologies. It will enable researchers to store the results generated from clinical trials in one central location to facilitate greater collaboration between organisations. Ultimately, we hope that our work will lead to advances in our understanding of diseases, which could improve all our lives.”
The team, who collaborated with researchers in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial, has already developed the prototype software that they now plan to develop further for the eTRIKS project. They will also develop the software as open source so that it can be used more broadly by the global healthcare and medical research community.
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