A National Center for
Digital Health Innovation

Oregon Health & Science University, Northwestern University, University of Washington, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Sage Bionetworks, together with The Scripps Research Institute, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Iowa, and The Jackson Laboratory have been awarded a five-year $25M cooperative agreement from the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS, grant U24TR002306) to create a new CTSA Program National Center for Data to Health (CD2H). This award will coalesce and coordinate informatics activities across the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Program, a network of more than 50 medical research institutions, to provide collaborative clinical and translational research infrastructure.

The Washington University component of the new center involves a collaboration of the Institute for Informatics (I2), Health Systems Innovation Lab (HSIL) and the Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences (ICTS).

“This grant brings WU together with a select group of institutions that will create new tools and methods to share data and techniques across institutions. It will bring researchers and clinicians closer to the vision of a data commons that will allow more productive use, reuse, and novel combinations of data from many sources. Such data sharing will drive scientific discovery, and drive more rapid translation of discovery into prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.” Bradley Evanoff, MD, MPH – Director, Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences

The new CTSA Program National Center for Data to Health will be led by Dr. Melissa Haendel (OHSU), Dr. Kristi Holmes (Northwestern University), Dr. Sean Mooney (University of Washington), Dr. Christopher Chute (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), and John Wilbanks (Sage Bionetworks). “The goal is to unlock the amazing wealth of technologies and innovation located within each individual CTSA and to create cohesive communities of practice founded on the fundamental premise that team science, data sharing, and collaborative innovation can advance patient care” described the center director at Oregon Health & Sciences University, Dr. Melissa Haendel, who also co-directs the Biomedical Data Translator program supported by NCATS (Grant OT3TR002019).

The role of Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine is to design and deliver a novel platform that will support the sharing of both data and analytical tools across and between CTSA hubs, helping to increase the efficiency of collaborative research programs at a national level.

“By creating a data commons that can enable open science and innovation at a national level, the Washington University Institute for Informatics will be helping to re-engineer the way in which high impact and data intensive research is conducted throughout the CTSA consortium. Ultimately, this platform will support a transition away from traditional, and largely siloed research paradigms, towards a model in which data and tool sharing yields cumulative research findings that are reproducible, rigorous, and timely.” Philip R.O. Payne, PhD, FACMI- Director, Institute for Informatics (I2)

The CD2H will be tasked with several priorities to support a vibrant and evolving informatics ecosystem, including: support and enhancement of a collaborative informatics community; development of Good Data Practice (GDP); promotion of software standards for interoperability; growth of collaborative innovation across informatics tools, methods, and processes; advancement of cutting edge biomedical research informatics; data science education for CTSA Program researchers; and novel methods and tools for the evaluation of the impact of these activities to enhance health care through data and informatics.

“The creation of the CD2H data commons model will vastly accelerate efforts to generate meaningful and actionable insights from clinical datasets, such as predictive models for clinical risk and outcomes. HSIL is excited to participate in this effort, and will work to translate insights from this project into innovative models of care delivery.” Thomas M. Maddox, MD, MSc – Director, Health Systems Innovation Lab (HSIL)

Professor Christopher Chute, Chief Research Information Officer at Johns Hopkins Medicine and Deputy Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research described the important role that collaborative informatics plays in health. “All CTSA hubs have shared an aspiration for federated analyses of clinical data across the network, married with public repositories of basic science data, to achieve unprecedented levels of biomedical knowledge discovery and improved practice. CD2H will catalyze this process, and coordinate the myriad of social, legal, and technical requirements to make this practical.” Dr. Justin Guinney, Director of Computational Oncology at Sage Bionetworks and co-director of the DREAM Challenges, shared, “The CTSA network is a vibrant community which can greatly benefit from a set of integrated platforms and best-practices across institutions to facilitate data sharing and method benchmarking. Our vision is that a data-driven and model-based ecosystem will have a lasting impact on patient outcomes.”

The newly created center will focus on creating and harnessing an ecosystem for translational scientists to discover and share their software, data, and other research resources within the CTSA Program network. The CD2H also creates a social coding environment for translational science institutions, leveraging the community-driven DREAM challenges as a mechanism to stimulate innovation. Collaborative innovation also serves as a strong foundation to support mechanisms to facilitate training, engagement, scholarly dissemination, and impact across the CTSA Program hubs and beyond.

University of Washington lead, Prof. Sean Mooney, Chief Research Information Officer of UW Medicine, described the center as an opportunity to show the power informatics can have on advancing healthcare using data and technology.  Dr. Kristi Holmes, Director of Evaluation at the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute and Director of the Galter Health Sciences Library & Learning Center at Feinberg School of Medicine, expressed her enthusiasm for the project, “As scientific research is transformed by big data, high-performance computing, and real-time publishing, the structure and composition of scientific teamwork is also changing. Here we aim to grow the informatics-based architecture needed to support interdisciplinary teams so that diverse contributions are valued and recognized — enhancing knowledge transfer, discovery, and impact on health.”