The goal is to build an information system, the iQ Engine, that will uniquely assist researchers relate genetic susceptibility of patients with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases to environmental influences such as culture and socio-economic status, educational backgrounds, inhaled cigarette smoke, pollutants, viruses, allergens, diet, and obesity.
By understanding how variously expressed genes can change the structure and function of cells, tissues and organs in the body to cause diseases, iCAPTUR4E researchers hope to transform patient care. This research could lead to more targeted treatment therapies and early intervention for chronic illnesses like asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, atherosclerosis, and heart failure, as well as pre-symptomatic screening, wellness and preventive care programmes.
"The complexity and volume of data that researchers are dealing with in their investigations made the selection of a technology partner a critical factor for iCAPTUR4E", stated Bruce McManus, Ph.D., MD, FRCPC, cofounder of the iCAPTUR4E Centre at the McDonald Research Laboratories, St. Paul's Hospital-UBC, and scientific director of the Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health, Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
"Not only did IBM offer the best available technology, they also brought a level of life sciences expertise, openness and commitment that has contributed to our success together so far. With IBM's help, we quickly built a prototype iQ Engine. Using a small patient subset, we tested the system's ability to integrate and analyse various data related to human heart valves. Early on, we were able to identify new relationships between protein expression and signalling that may influence how rheumatic heart disease progresses."
iCAPTUR4E's IT infrastructure is based on the IBM Life Sciences Framework and next-generation middleware tools and algorithms being developed by IBM Research for clinical and biomedical use. The Life Sciences Framework is an open, scalable architecture developed to make disparate data and applications interoperable. It provides a roadmap for unifying data and applications at each stage of research and development to achieve peak performance and data sharing across system boundaries, and an overall faster scientific discovery process.
The iCAPTUR4E iQ Engine will be powered by IBM DB2 database software, which can manage large, disparate data sources and scale to address long-term data requirements. IBM's WebSphere software will provide an Internet-enabled collaborative research environment for more than 150 iCAPTUR4E researchers and access to a broad range of data sources. These include iCAPTUR4E Centre's registries of diseased tissue and cell samples and medical records from consenting patients.
The iCAPTUR4E Centre configuration includes an IBM eServer pSeries server running AIX, IBM's UNIX operating system, for processing research data and running research applications such as Spotfire DecisionSite, which analyses complex data in medical and life sciences research. The system will be augmented by IBM DiscoveryLink data integration technology, which will integrate data from a variety of sources, formats and file types. Using DiscoveryLink, researchers can consolidate information from many sources into a "virtual database" to solve complex medical research problems.
"IBM and iCAPTUR4E are collaborating to advance information-based medicine", stated Carol Kovac, Ph.D., general manager, IBM Life Sciences. "iCAPTUR4E researchers are using information technology to gain important insights into complex genetic diseases. The results of this research could benefit millions of people around the world who suffer from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases."
Several IBM Research technologies are showcased in the new iCAPTUR4E iQ Engine, including bioinformatics research technology that allows patient information to be accessed and shared by different organisations, while maintaining patient privacy and information security. This technology includes integrated medical records software that can be used to capture, integrate and transform medical records such as laboratory tests, diagnostic imaging reports, and patient identification information, for example, into standards-compliant electronic documents in XML notation. The system also includes IBM Research algorithms for discovering patterns and correlations among data, using such parameters as age, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, lifestyle, and many genomic features.
IBM and iCAPTUR4E have completed and tested a prototype system, which has already provided new insights that may, ultimately, help researchers as well as physicians toward making patient management decisions. Phase 2 of the project is underway and will be completed by year-end. This stage of the initiative broadens the patient population and data sets to include genetic sequences, such as single nucleotide polymorphisms and haplotypes, related to atherosclerosis, aortic valvular stenosis, systemic inflammatory response syndrome, asthma, and other diseases.
iCAPTUR4E is a publicly funded research centre that uses advanced methods and technology to conduct research into the mechanisms, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart, blood vessel and lung diseases. The iCAPTUR4E Centre is located at the McDonald Research Laboratory of the St. Paul's Hospital, University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.