Genome British Columbia today announced $1 million in funding to support four unique projects aimed at enabling discoveries to address unmet clinical healthcare needs through its Data Access, Integration and Analysis program.
This funding will benefit the BC health system by allowing researchers to analyze genomic data in conjunction with clinical health and imaging data. Combining these data sources has the potential to unlock new discoveries and improve patient care.
The project is run in partnership with PHC Ventures, a subsidiary that is an enterprise and commercialization engine for Providence Health Care. A key element for projects funded under this program is access to the Integrated Health Informatics Datalab (IHID) — a new data platform developed by Providence and PHC Ventures, designed to move research forward faster and accelerate the development of innovative health solutions. The platform collects, de-identifies, links, analyzes and shares health data from many sources within a secure, cloud-based custom data lab environment. All usage adheres to the highest international standards of security, privacy and ethics. A portion of Genome BC’s funding will cover IHID’s costs for the use of the platform and training opportunities.
“The Integrated Health Informatics Datalab will allow researchers and innovators from across the globe to access the real-world evidence they need to support health care discoveries, product development and, ultimately, better patient care,” says Brian Simmers, CFO, VP Health Informatics and Corporate Development, and Head of PHC Ventures at Providence Health Care.
The four funded projects are:
- Drs. Chris Ryerson and Tillie-Louise Hackett, University of British Columbia (UBC) and PHC, will study how an individual’s genes and their environmental exposure to air pollution can lead to the development of interstitial lung disease; a serious health condition that results in lung scarring, breathing difficulties and a severely shortened lifespan.
- Drs. Liam Brunham and Simon Pimstone, UBC and PHC, will evaluate the role of genetics in assessing risk and guiding treatment of heart disease. Specifically, they will examine if genetic testing and screening via clinical imaging tools can help find individuals among the first-degree relatives of patients with early onset heart disease who are also at high risk of heart disease and who could benefit from preventive treatment.
- Drs. Scott Tebbutt and Raymond Ng, UBC, PHC and Prevention of Organ Failure (PROOF) Centre, will build upon a blood test they developed to monitor biomarkers for the absence of acute rejection in heart transplant patients. Now they seek to link data from IHID to biomarker data with short-term and long-term patient outcomes to develop new biomarker tests that might better predict poor health outcomes in heart transplant patients.
- Drs. Zachary Laksman and Jonathon Leipsic, UBC and PHC, are developing a blood test that can identify people at risk of heart failure and be used to monitor the disease progression of Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a common form of heart disease affecting one in 200 people.
Just as data is central to effective decision-making in information technology, finance and manufacturing, making data available in a safe, ethical, secure and privacy-conscious way can improve the performance and quality of healthcare. De-identified patient health data can be consistently analyzed to develop new prognostic, diagnostic and other tools, which can be integrated into care and provide a better experience and superior results.
To this end, Genome BC’s funding programs mandate, actively support and rigorously assess plans for data governance, including management, sharing and the provision of secondary data access.
“Integrating clinical data with genomic research data will enable new discoveries that address unmet clinical needs, provide benefits to the healthcare system and most importantly, improve patient outcomes,” says Federica Di Palma, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice-President, Research and Innovation, Genome BC.
Zsuzsanna Hollander, Director, Data Science, Genome BC, adds: “These four projects now have the unique chance to access health data digitally, instead of the traditional manual, time-consuming process. Merging health data with genomics data can speed up the process of discovering better patient management tools.”
About Genome British Columbia:
Genome BC is a not-for-profit organization supporting world-class genomics research and innovation to grow globally competitive life sciences sectors and deliver sustainable benefits for British Columbia, Canada and beyond. The organization’s initiatives are improving the lives of British Columbians by advancing health care as well as addressing environmental and natural resource challenges. In addition to scientific programming, Genome BC works to integrate genomics into society by supporting responsible research and innovation and foster an understanding and appreciation of the life sciences among educators, students, and the public.
About PHC Ventures:
As an expert navigator of the Canadian health care, regulatory, and technology landscape, PHC Ventures provides indispensable support to corporate, institutional and individual innovators seeking to validate and commercialize their products and ideas. PHC Ventures offers a portal to Providence Health Care in Vancouver, Canada, a renowned provincial health organization whose lengthy innovation track record and size make it an ideal incubator to validate and scale innovations. PHC Ventures actively co-develops health solutions, forges unconventional partnerships, facilitates consulting relationships with PHC clinicians, and invests in health start-ups.