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IDBS-Led Consortium Receives $4.8M to Build Cloud-based Cancer Research Platform


By Uduak Grace Thomas

The UK government will fund a consortium led by IDBS to create a cloud-based informatics platform that will support stratified and translational medicine research and collaboration across organizations.

The UK’s Technology Strategy Board contributed £1.5 million ($2.4 million) to the project as part of the UK’s Stratified Medicines Innovation Platform. Commercial partners involved in the project contributed a second £1.5 million.

The Tumour Profiling and Data Capture consortium — composed of IDBS; cloud computing provider Quantix; and cancer centers at Kings Health Partners and Manchester Academic Health Science Center — plan to build a platform dubbed Acropolis, short for "Advanced Collaborative Research for Oncology Platform for Improved Outcomes, Learnings, Insight, and Science."

IDBS said the two-and-a-half-year project aims to provide tools for data handling, storage, retrieval, and analysis that will support secure stratified medicine research and collaboration. The company added that the infrastructure will enable medical centers as well as pharmaceutical research and diagnostic companies, among others, to identify patient populations and study the genetic roots of cancer.

“We are creating an environment that will support multiple different types of collaboration around pseudonymized, patient data sets,” Simon Beaulah, marketing director of translational medicine at IDBS, told BioInform in an e-mail.

“Acropolis is intended to support translational and stratified medicine studies in any form, providing an infrastructure for secure handling of high-quality longitudinal patient data, molecular results, and genetic variants,” he added.

Beaulah said Acropolis will be based on IDBS’ existing software capabilities, including a new product launched this week called the Biomolecular Hub, a data-management solution for 'omics data and analysis results.

“We're building on the understanding that we've developed around the processes and software we have developed for secure data capture, pseudonymization, data warehousing, analytics, and how to bring it all together for stratified medicine,” he explained.

The Biomolecular Hub enables researchers to manage large volumes of 'omics data inside and outside their organization, helping to streamline molecular analysis and improve genomic collaboration, the company said.

In addition to its use in Acropolis, IDBS’s new tool is also being deployed as part of the Oncology Research Information Systems, or ORIS, a translational medicine-informatics platform implemented at King’s Health Partners’ Integrated Cancer Center as part of a nine-year partnership launched in March. That project aims to use patients’ genomic and clinical profiles to develop individualized cancer therapies (BI 03/11/2011).

As part of the Acropolis project, KHP and Manchester Health Center will provide knowledge and expertise “that will help ensure the infrastructure is well suited for collaborative research around stratified medicine,” Beulah explained. The hospitals will also test the software that’s developed during the effort.

Furthermore, there is a plan to commercialize the fruits of the project, Beaulah said. While he did not provide specific details about the partners' commercialization plans, he said that IDBS is working with several cancer initiatives, as well as relying on its rapport in the pharmaceutical industry, to ensure that clients in pharma, diagnostics companies, and academic research organizations “know about this project” and are “starting to think about how they could tap into it and use it.”

One such initiative is the Cancer Research UK Stratified Medicines Project, SMIP, which aims to integrate data from six experimental cancer medical centers.

SMIP is expected to receive an investment of more than £50 million ($80.8 million) in government funding over five years to support research and development in areas such as tumor profiling to improve cancer care and the development of biomarkers that could lead to more effective drugs and diagnostics for the disease.

Beaulah did not provide details about the cloud infrastructure that will be provided by Quantix, but noted that “a crucial part of the process” of developing that platform is to “survey the industry and understand their needs and requirements around cloud-based infrastructure.” These factors, he said, “will drive the design of Quantix's environment.”

While Acropolis forms the “centerpiece” of IDBS's activities in the translational medicine space, Beaulah said the company is also invested in providing capabilities that support analysis of next-generation sequencing data and other types of molecular data.

“There's a lot of work to be done to provide bioinformatics organizations with data and result management capabilities that enable researchers to manage the large volumes of 'omic data, … streamline molecular analysis, and improve genomic collaboration," he said, citing the recently released Biomolecular Hub as an example of the firm’s efforts in the space.

In a statement, Paul Denny-Gouldson, vice president of translational medicine and head of the company's global healthcare unit, said the company launched the Biomolecular Hub in response to "a strong demand” from its customers for a system to manage the flood of genomic metadata and results from molecular analysis.

With the new release, IDBS aims to provide a resource that goes "beyond merely storing raw files to creating a smart system that provides traceability between data and results, and creates a true system for genomic collaboration," he said.

Have topics you'd like to see covered in BioInform? Contact the editor at uthomas [at] genomeweb [.] com.

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