In another initiative, IBM is working with the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm to create Sweden's first IT-enabled biobank. Researchers are to examine many thousands of human tissue samples along with genetic and environmental data to integrate existing biobanks across the country.
They will be supported by the new IBM Clinical Genomics Solution, which will help provide an IT infrastructure to integrate genotypic and phenotypic data, while assuring privacy and security to the patient.
"The IT infrastructure and expertise provided by IBM is absolutely critical to achieving our goal to impact international efforts in epidemiology, improve public health, and guide planning for new studies," said Jan-Eric Litton, Ph.D., director of informatics at the Karolinska Institutet Biobank.
The clinical genomics solution is now finding many other applications worldwide, according to Brett David, manager of information-based medicine at IBM Health Care and Life Sciences.
"There is a lot of data in hospital departments. Clinical genomics comes in to integrate and consolidate it so researchers and clinicians can access it and ask questions they otherwise couldn't, explained David. "We need this to realize the potential of the human genome project."
He promises that the information-based approach is already having an impact at multiple levels of biobanking in medical centers and pharma and biotech companies. Translational researchdriving research from the bench to the bedsideis beginning to work. "There are drugs already in clinical trials thanks to the information-based approach."
Meanwhile, Kathy Giusti, president and founder of the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC), employed one approach to building a biobank, using four centers specializing in this rare cancer.
They are all involved in genomics, target validation, and clinical trials, with compounds already in Phase I and II. The aim is to create a critical mass of patients who have multiple myeloma. MMRC is now focusing on the pharmaceutical industry. "We found that they were looking for access to tissue and cell lines," said Giusti.
MMRC has been very successful in fund raising. "We want this to be a new research model for drug development and offer hope for new treatments for a fatal orphan cancer," she added, pointing out that the model could also be applied to other diseases.