Using computer systems for any purpose often involves storing and accessing data. But each mobile application you access on your phone or website you access online was designed for a specific purpose – to get the current weather or keep up with your friends online. These systems all keep their data in different places and think about data in different ways (storage, access, searching, etc). The applications and databases that store both clinical and research data are very much the same – it can often be difficult to relate data from one system to data in another. But when you ultimately DO combine data in this way, the results can be very powerful.
The ability to integrate data from different sources allows our researchers to be innovative in the questions we ask. Does access to fresh fruits and vegetables lower the risk for certain medical conditions? How many drugs commonly prescribed in the US are potentially influenced by genetic changes? Do ancient Neaderthal sequences change your risk of disease? All these questions were made possible by bridging data from different sources. As part of the Consortium for Alzheimer’s Sequence Analysis (part of the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project), Dr. Haines and Dr. Bush integrate data from a variety of public resources to help understand the impact of genetic changes identified in Alzheimer’s Disease. Dr. Barnholtz-Sloan and our ICB Technologists are leading efforts to integrate data from clinical studies across the Cleveland area. Our data resource called the ICB SHED provides a secure data environment for access and analysis of clinical data, but also provides a resource for joint analyses of data common across multiple studies. ICB’s CLEARPATH is a large-scale project aimed at integrating de-identified medical data from multiple institutions in the Cleveland area, and will enable the first-ever city-wide view of clinical care.