UCSF and IBM team up to link all university's research findings and clinical information

By Wallace Ravven on November 17, 2003

UCSF and IBM are collaborating in a broad effort to link UCSF clinical information and research findings in order to help accelerate medical research. The initial focus will be Alzheimer’s and other debilitating neurological illnesses to enable UCSF to seek new causes and treatments.

The three-year collaboration, between a leader in biomedical research and medical care and a pioneer in healthcare informatics and technology innovation, will use the power of information technology to bridge clinical and genomic research - across UCSF departments and throughout its research and clinical sites. This approach marks a major departure from the way research is conducted in most academic medical centers today and is considered crucial to continue to advance medical diagnosis and to find new genetic and environmental causes of diseases. The collaboration is a result of a competitive proposal process.

UCSF and IBM will develop an advanced clinical and genomic information management program, allowing scientists from different disciplines to work with physicians to seek the genetic links implicated in their patients’ illnesses. One of the team’s goals is to develop a Web-based system that is readily accessible to physicians with little information technology training. The IBM scientists will work side by side with their physician-scientist counterparts on site at UCSF. The technology infrastructure will be designed to protect the security and privacy of patient health information.

With an initial focus on neurology, the collaboration is designed to provide scientists with new tools to speed research on memory loss, dementia and aging, stroke and multiple sclerosis, and then draw on UCSF research findings in oncology and cardiology.

“I think building new and more powerful data accessing, mining and analytical capabilities will have a huge impact on our efforts to understand brain behavior and to diagnose and treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s that degrade behavior and cognition,” said Bruce Miller MD, UCSF professor of neurology and director of the UCSF Memory and Aging Center. “Neuroscientists will be able to extract new information from brain images generated in the clinic. We could find relationships between brain activity and the results of neuropsychological behavior. Mining the data for relationships between the two could well help us find new patterns that predict disease and help us understand how the brain works.”

“It may surprise many to learn that the way we use computers in medicine is primitive compared with the sophistication of their use in banking, airline reservations, even retail sales,” said Regis Kelly, PhD, UCSF executive vice chancellor. “UCSF and IBM are pooling their intellectual resources to tap the full depth and breadth of UCSF clinical and research records for the first time by exploiting the most advanced information technology capabilities. As far as we know, this is a unique venture.”

With growing amounts of patient information of different types and in different formats - from medical records to diagnostic images to DNA chips - doctors and researchers need new ways to access records quickly and find correlations between different kinds of clinical and genetic data. IBM business intelligence and life sciences technology experts will collaborate with UCSF researchers to aggregate this diverse information on specific medical conditions and diseases. Once the data has been aggregated, UCSF researchers will use the new clinical genomics information management system to analyze the data for diagnosis and treatment across various diseases.

Using this approach UCSF neurology researchers will be able to see more effectively than before if any form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, may have been misdiagnosed as a single disease.

“With this collaborative agreement, UCSF and IBM are recognizing that a new and bold approach to integrating and managing healthcare data is essential to improving patient care and accelerating clinical research,” said Neil de Crescenzo, IBM Business Consulting Services global healthcare leader. “Together, we can build the processes and structures that will bridge and align critical information from both clinical and research environments for use by researchers and clinicians alike.”

For this collaboration, IBM will bring its on demand approach and experience in the design, building, and operation of information infrastructures for large and complex healthcare institutions.  The UCSF-IBM collaboration will be another advance, linking multiple sites and information infrastructure at a major academic and medical center.

ABOUT UCSF

The University of California, San Francisco is one of the world’s premier health sciences universities, a leader in biomedical research, patient care, higher education and public service.  More than two dozen UCSF faculty scientists are members of the National Academy of Sciences, three have won Nobel prizes and 16 are investigators in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The UCSF Medical Center is consistently ranked among the top ten in the country. The National Research Council ranks UCSF’s doctoral programs in genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology among the top three nationally. The UCSF Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Nursing all are top recipients of NIH research funding. Grants fuel research in such fields as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, HIV, pediatric illnesses, diabetes and other auto-immune diseases. For more information: UCSF.

ABOUT IBM

IBM is helping transform the healthcare, life sciences and the pharmaceutical industries by offering research, business consulting, hardware, middleware, integration and implementation services.  IBM professionals are serving health-related customers in more than 160 countries.  IBM expertise, high performance computing, modeling and data management are helping genomic studies, the search for new drugs and other life science efforts.  IBM solutions help healthcare providers and payers increase patient care and safety, reduce medical errors and reduce costs by creating a faster, more efficient Web-based infrastructure.  Business process change, Web hosting, technology design, and training are some of the additional key services IBM offers health-related customers. To learn more please visit IBM.