IBM and the University of Calgary have established a five-year collaboration to accelerate and expand genomic research into common childhood conditions such as autism, congenital diseases and the many unknown causes of illness.
As part of the collaboration, IBM will augment the existing research capacity at the Cumming School of Medicine’s Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute by installing a POWER8-based computing and storage infrastructure along with advanced analytics and cognitive computing software.
Researchers have investigated hundreds of genetic cases at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, contributing to the identification of 30 new genes. However, one in four children admitted to the Alberta Children’s Hospital has an unknown or undiagnosed illness. With access to these new tools, scientists can better generate, store and analyze complex clinical, genetic and imaging data, and expect to reduce from months to days the cycle times required for investigations into how genes and environmental factors impact child health.
This precision-medicine approach will lead to opportunities for better diagnostics, prevention and more personalized treatment protocols.
“Advances in our ability to capture and analyze data have truly cross-cutting affects for research programs throughout the university,” said Ed McCauley, vice-president (research), University of Calgary. “This collaboration will not only allow researchers to sort through larger data sets and provide advanced skill development opportunities for our trainees, it will increase capacity for genomics work in Calgary.”
The initiative will support three projects including the work of Dr. Micheil Innes, a member of the Department of Medical Genetics as the Cumming School of Medicine. Dr. Innes is researching more rapid and accurate diagnosis of genetic disorders and through his work was able to help a Calgary teenager who was diagnosed with a rare form of autism.
Genomic medicine promises to revolutionize biomedical research and clinical care, enabling scientists to identify individuals at risk, provide early diagnoses based on biomarkers, and recommend effective treatments. But the field of genomics has been caught in a flood of data that often outpaces the ability to quickly store, analyze, share, and archive it, creating an obstacle to discovery. The new technology platform at ACHRI is designed to specifically address these challenges.
“IBM has always believed investment in research and development is an important driver for Canada’s competitiveness, and few fields offer greater opportunities for innovation than healthcare,” said Dino Trevisani, president of IBM Canada. “Improving the health and vitality of our children requires collaboration across government, social programs, life sciences, health researchers and providers. Taking a holistic view of the individual and entire populations, and sharing technology and knowledge, can lead to better, more cost-effective care.”