Data warehouse for translational research
February 2012
by Amy Swinderman  |  Email the author


WINDBER, Pa.—A rare but successful translational research collaboration between data management provider IDBS and nonprofit research organization Windber Research Institute (WRI), detailed in a recent joint paper in the Journal of Biomedical Informatics, is expected to yield personalized cancer therapies and improve patient outcomes.  
A multidisciplinary team of clinicians, scientists, software developers and biomedical informaticians tackled the daunting challenges of data gathering and analysis challenges, which are often said to place biomedical research years behind the results this growing field seeks.  
The WRI is a nonprofit research organization founded more than a decade ago after U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa. and then-chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, was approached by a concerned group of military spouses regarding the healthcare of women serving in the military—and in breast care, in particular. Murtha decided to support funding for this cause, and the Clinical Breast Care Project at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., was born. Using a multidisciplinary approach that brings together prevention, screening, diagnostics, treatment and continuing care, the project integrates advances in risk reduction, biomedical informatics, tissue banking and translational research.
The relationship between Windber and Walter Reed expanded rapidly, and the WRI is today considered to be one of the world's leading genetic research labs. Like many who work in the field of biomedical informatics, the WRI's researchers needed to integrate all of the data they acquired from multiple platforms and make them usable at the point of need—functions that are critical to the success of translational research.  
However, the organization encountered significant challenges in developing a comprehensive data warehouse system to meet the needs of translational research, including the importance of handling temporal information.
Now, in a study titled "DW4TR: A Data Warehouse for Translational Research" that was published in the December 2011 issue of The Journal of Biomedical Informatics, the groups describe the development of a novel system that meets those challenges from data model to interface.  
Working with Walter Reed, the WRI and IDBS created a comprehensive data warehouse composed of a complex set of approximately 1,000 detailed breast cancer attributes, including risk factors, patient history, pathology and treatment. Called the Data Warehousing for Translational Research system, or DW4TR, the warehouse integrates multiple data points on cancer attributes such as risk factors, patient history and treatment, and makes this information available in a single source to give scientists the information they need for research into translational medicine or for clinical risk assessment.  
With all these clinico- pathological data now available in a single source, scientists can query across the information to support multiple research goals, whether for translational medicine or clinical risk assessment, says Dr. Hai Hu, deputy chief scientific officer and senior director of biomedical informatics at the WRI.  
"This is really a dream environment that many people would like to have," says Hu. "When you combine very different perspectives and different languages that have to be translated and achieve these two things, you have success. Such a collaborative environment is critical to the success of translational research, and to achieve that is not always easy."  
The software development and implementation was done by InforSense, which was acquired by IDBS in July 2009. Designing and implementing the DW4TR posed a number of engineering challenges, but by borrowing many concepts from traditional business intelligence projects and applying those methods effectively to longitudinal clinical data, IDBS was able to combine data modeling and user interfaces, says Dr. Paul Denny- Gouldson, vice president of translational medicine at IDBS.  
"This type of data management system enables you to get from bench to bedside, then back to the bench," he notes. "You may not have everyone in one single environment, but we're now able to link them together and provide an ecosystem of data capture and integration in one environment."
Now that the academic value of the DW4TR has been demonstrated, "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 technologies are used by more than 200 pharmaceutical companies, major healthcare providers, global leaders in academic study and high-tech companies to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve the productivity of industrial R&D and clinical research.

IDBS, Royal Society of Chemistry automate online publishing of chemistry research  
GUILDFORD, U.K.— IDBS also recently announced the release of real-time publication capability for research chemists directly from its electronic notebook. According to IDBS, the approach enables researchers to publish their chemistry data to send it directly to the ChemSpider online compound database, providing "seamless access to the most comprehensive view of freely available chemical data."  
According to IDBS, researchers using E-WorkBook can now connect to ChemSpider to share and reuse their work, eliminating unnecessary repeated experiments "and providing valuable contributions to the world's knowledge of chemistry." The capability was co-developed by the Royal Society of Chemistry in partnership with the University of Cambridge, and is freely available to all users of E-WorkBook.   
"Much of chemistry research is essentially lost, with many results simply not published and left languishing in forgotten lab notebooks," said Prof. Robert Glen, professor of molecular sciences informatics and director of the Unilever Centre for Molecular Sciences Informatics at University of Cambridge, in a press release. "Now, capturing novel molecules soon after synthesis on a searchable database like ChemSpider is an effortless process driven directly from the electronic laboratory notebook. This will encourage sharing of compounds, synthetic methods and all the associated data, and will significantly increase collaboration and cut research time. It's instant messaging for chemists."  
The Royal Society of Chemistry is the United Kingdom's professional body for chemical scientists and an international learned society for the chemical sciences. With more than 48,000 members worldwide, the society is a major international publisher of chemical information.
Code: E021211

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