NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – This week, the Open Medicine Institute rolled out an improved version of OpenMedNet infrastructure, an internally developed web-based platform for research and healthcare use that provides capabilities for integrating and exploring clinical, genomic, and other kinds of data within a single system.
OMI, an independent benefit corporation that aims to improve healthcare using a multi-disciplinary data approach, developed OpenMedNet over four years ago to bridge a perceived gap in interactions between patients and researchers in both academic and clinical settings, according to Andreas Kogelnik, OMI's founder. It is intended to facilitate information sharing and collaboration — with appropriate consent and approval — between patients, caregivers, hospitals, laboratories, and so on, he told BioInform.
The system offers tools for patients to access needed healthcare services and get involved in research studies, and for clinicians to combine multiple sources of information on patients or trial participants including lab tests, drug information, self-reported data, whole-genome data, gene expression information, insurance claim data, clinical trial data, and more. The system pulls data from both internal and external sources including electronic medical records, pharmacy systems, clinical and research laboratories, patient data portals, wearable and home-monitoring devices, and more.
"We feel that in advancing medicine, it's critical to have a neutral place for patients and doctors to exchange ideas and collaborate," Kogelnik said. Enabling those interactions is important, and "we see ourselves [and OpenMedNet] as the platform for that." The platform is available for customization and licensing within other technologies and healthcare systems and patients can sign up to use it for free.
Since it launched, the first version of OpenMedNet has found use in a number of projects. One of these ongoing projects is being conducted in conjunction with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is focused on Myalgic Encephalomyelitis /Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), a condition that according to OMI affects over 8 million patients worldwide. This particular project, dubbed OMI- ME Roundtable on Immunology and Treatment, aims to discover new diagnostic and treatment solutions for ME/CFS. Its projects include a Phase I randomized placebo-controlled trial involving two treatments, rituximab and valgancyclovir, and also performing protein analysis on biological specimens collected from ME/CFS patients.
Another current study making use of the platform is focused on autism spectrum disorders. Dubbed OMI-Autism, this project also aims to identify better diagnostic and treatment strategies for the disorders. Its sub-projects include a longitudinal study following over 500 patients with autism and their families, who will be studied for five years. Researchers are using OpenMedNet to collate and analyze genomic, immunology, diet, activity, environmental, and other kinds of data and measurements from the participants. Another sub-project hopes to screen about 20,000 couples and their children from pre-conception through 8 years of age in order to gain insights into primary pathways that could be targeted in the future to prevent or treat the disorder.
The data from these existing projects — including studies focused on diabetes — is currently being transferred to the new, improved OpenMedNet, Kogelnik said. OMI updated the platform in collaboration with information technology firms VMware, EMC, Kovarus, and HPM networks. Last year, the Open Medicine Foundation, the non-profit body that backs the OMI's efforts, received a grant from the VMware Foundation to improve the OpenMedNet architecture. That grant included about $50,000 in financial support, along with valuable computing infrastructure and consulting services and support, Kogelnik said. VMware also connected OMI with other corporate foundations tied to other tech firms based in Silicon Valley that got involved in the OpenMedNet overhaul, he said.
Engineers from these firms worked with OMI to install new hardware and software that improved, among other things, the platform's speed and storage abilities. According to OMI, an HPM team deployed and configured servers and switches, while VMware engineers helped install some of their products on OMI's HP servers, aligned data storage to the VMware platform, and built out OMI applications within the VMware environment. The improved system, OMI said, runs as a distributed platform over multiple servers, is able to support thousands of simultaneous users, and combines a wide range of data types including clinical information, medical imaging, and whole-genome sequencing, as well as RNA and protein data.
These updates to the system enable "a lot of different media to be captured and a lot of different types of clinical and research data to be captured to a much greater level than we had before, and it gives a bigger [database] for storing [data] as well," Kogelnik said.
The first project to benefit from the new infrastructure is the Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute (ALCMI). It has formed a partnership with OMI to use OpenMedNet to process data from two ongoing oncology studies. The first study, dubbed INHERIT, will explore inherited mutations that are associated with the development of lung cancer. The second study, called Genomics Young Lung, will explore the genomic profiles of young patients who have lung cancer although they have never smoked, Kogelnik said. Both studies will use OpenMedNet to combine clinical and genomic data as part of their research.
Another project that will soon benefit from the updated OpenMedNet is a pancreatic cancer study that is expected to launch in the near future, Kogelnik said. In addition, OpenMedNet is being used in ongoing collaborations with a number of insurance, pharmaceutical, and diagnostic companies.