Our vision is to maximise the gains for patients and for medical research that will come from the explosion in human health data. To realise this potential we need to accumulate medical and biological data on an unprecedented scale and complexity, to coordinate it, to store it safely and securely, and to make it readily available to interested researchers. It is vital to develop people with the skills and expertise to exploit these data for the benefit of patients.
We are hampered in our work to generate new medical insights because of the fragmented accessibility of fundamental clinical and research data, and the lack of a high-performance computing (HPC) facility in which to analyse them. We shall build MRC eMedLab, a shared computer cluster to integrate and share heterogeneous data from personal healthcare records, imaging, pharmacoinformatics and genomics. Through co-location, we will eliminate the delays and security risks that occur when data are moved. It also provides a platform to develop analytical tools that allow biomedical researchers to transform raw data into scientific insights and clinical outcomes. MRC eMedLab will store data securely and its modular design will ensure sustainability through expansion and replacement.
As part of the UK’s healthcare strategy, we will train the next generation of clinicians and scientists to ensure that the NHS’s ability to apply genomic and imaging data to clinical care is among the best in the world. We shall establish a Medical Bioinformatics Research and Training Academy where basic and clinical scientists, research fellows, post-docs and PhD students will be trained for world-leading computational biomedical science. The Academy will ensure that interactions cut across the traditional boundaries of disease types. We will fund 4 Career Development Fellowships (CDFs) to recruit outstanding junior faculty; successful fellows will choose their home institution from one, or combination of the 4 partners. Research activities will be coordinated by the Academy Labs. We will form synergistic links with the Farr Institute of Health Informatics Training Academy in e-Health and the UK-ELIXIR node for bioinformatics training.
Secure partner data will be loaded into MRC eMedLab, alongside public data from projects such as ENCODE and 1000 Genomes; it will also interface with industry-derived data and the new Global Alliance to allow secure sharing of genomic and clinical data. The consolidated, integrated information, along with associated tool and analytics, will drive the activities of the Academy, and provide the substrate for research performed by the CDFs as well as researchers among partners.
For illustration, we describe exemplar projects that will be enabled by our partnership. (i) We highlight 3 disease domains in which we have unique strengths: rare diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. (ii) We focus on 3 data types in which we have outstanding skills: genomic (primarily genetic), imaging (ranging in scale from whole organs to histopathological samples) and e-Health information (patient records and deep phenotyping). Close links with the Farr Health Informatics Research Institute at UCL Partners (Farr@UCLP) and Genomics England will allow information exchange with primary, secondary and tertiary NHS care for a full picture of health and disease progression.