IBM and Mayo Clinic work on database design for patient archives and genomic information

Rochester 25 March 2002IBM and Mayo Clinic have signed an agreement to jointly develop an information system designed to give Mayo Clinic investigators access to information which can help them identify potential clinical trial participants faster. The system will support investigators to identify research participants who meet very thorough, precise, and complex clinical trial criteria. It will also help investigators conduct large-scale clinical research across a broad range of diseases, complex diagnoses, and treatment categories.


More than 500.000 patients from around the world visit Mayo Clinic each year for medical care. When completed, the new system could enable Mayo Clinic's medical staff, including 2400 physicians and scientists in more than 100 speciality areas, to quickly draw meaning from a wealth of medical data to support medical treatments, including genomic information from public and private databases and retrospective studies of millions of archived records collected from informed, consenting patients.

During the first phase of joint development, the database system will be fully loaded with archival data which can immediately support and enhance a wide variety of research, including epidemiological studies of selected disease categories. This initial work, which will be completed in the second quarter of this year, could enable Mayo Clinic investigators to begin correlating patient data, including demographics, diagnoses, and results of tests performed to establish these diagnoses.

The goal of subsequent phases will be to bring in aggregate patient genomic information, as well as proteomic data and research information, from a variety of databases, while always protecting the confidentiality of Mayo Clinic patients.

"Our goal is to help Mayo Clinic quicken the pace of clinical research and positively impact the treatment of patients at the world's largest private health care organisation", stated Jeff Augen, Ph.D., director of Strategy, IBM Life Sciences. "This will be one of the most comprehensive and complex information systems ever developed for clinical investigation, designed to help investigators understand illnesses on a molecular level and support improved treatment decisions."

Mayo Clinic data provides an unusually wide breadth of information that can be electronically aggregated and researched retrospectively. For example, seven million Americans suffer from chronic inflammation, such as arthritis, bursitis and other joint diseases. In the future, Mayo Clinic physicians may be able to consult databases of historical data on millions of similar patients to determine the most effective course of treatment for an individual patient.

"The Mayo Clinic delivers among the highest level of patient care available in the world, and we are committed to continually improving our capabilities by gaining new knowledge through research", stated Dr. Piet de Groen, the Mayo project director of this collaboration and consultant, Mayo Clinic Division of Gastro-enterology and Haepatology. "When completed, this new system will immediately benefit our research activities by providing investigators with rapid access to clinical data for use in ongoing research activities."

The information system is based upon IBM DB2 database software, which can manage the massive patient record archives and provide long-term scalability when new data is added. IBM has developed new data warehousing technologies to address Mayo Clinic's unique requirements for patient confidentiality, structuring and querying heterogeneous medical records. The system is being designed to provide links to other public and private data sources using IBM's DiscoveryLink data integration software.

To ensure that research teams have fast access to information, the system will run on a powerful IBM eServer pSeries system running AIX, IBM's UNIX operating system. The system will be augmented by IBM WebSphere Internet infrastructure software. IBM Life Sciences brings together IBM resources, from research, services and e-business expertise to data and storage management and high-performance computing, to offer new solutions for the life sciences market, including biotechnology, genomic, e-health, pharmaceutical, and agri-science industries.

Leslie Versweyveld

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