Birmingham scientists link with hospital partners in China on data science health project

Professor Wan Xuehong and Professor Jon Frampton sign an agreement to set up a joint research institute.

University of Birmingham data science experts have signed an agreement to join forces with one of China’s best and biggest hospitals to gather, organise and analyse patient information under related laws and regulations from both countries and help improve healthcare for thousands of people.   

Under the leadership of the Centre for Computational Biology, researchers from the University are partnering with scientists and healthcare professionals of Chengdu’s West China Hospital, and its 5 million outpatients per year, to help link cutting-edge ‘Omics’ data with clinical information across a range of conditions.

This collaborative effort will enable state-of-the-art research for both the immediate benefit of the patients involved, as well as the improved understanding of the aetiology of diseases.

By using data science for life sciences the team can tap into a huge amount of medical information that will allow them to better understand a range of conditions through work in precision medicine, translational medicine and rare diseases.

Over the years, the University has developed world-leading expertise in using data science in a health and biomedical context, developing and implementing novel applications through Birmingham Health Partners.

The world-changing potential of data science

The University of Birmingham was recently invited to join the Alan Turing Institute – a prestigious British institute set up to advance the world-changing potential of data science. The establishment of this Joint Research Institute will enable the application of this expertise in the unique context of the West China Hospital.

Today’s agreement was signed by Professor Jon Frampton, Director of the University’s China Institute, who commented: “The University of Birmingham is a world leader in data sciences and our partnership with West China Hospital will help to increase medical understanding and improve outcomes for thousands of patients in China.

“Our expertise in data sciences is reflected in the University being invited to join The Alan Turing Institute. We very much hope to establish a collaboration in Chengdu that allows our experts to solve major health problems facing China and the wider world.”

Using data science will allow the University and Hospital to understand a condition in the context of relatively large numbers of people. Precision Medicine allows doctors to group patients by condition and tailor treatment to individual characteristics of that condition.

Accelerating the development of innovations

Translational medicine joins medical research disciplines with industry to accelerate development of innovations into treatments that directly benefit healthcare - speeding up the translation of new discoveries into health applications.

Professor Jean-Baptiste Cazier, Director of the Centre for Computational Biology at the University of Birmingham, and lead for the University’s Data Intensive Life Sciences programme area for the Alan Turing Institute, commented:

“We have the opportunity to work with West China Hospital with their invaluable knowledge in their patients’ conditions and use our data science expertise in fields ranging from Precision Medicine and Rare Diseases to Translational medicine to better understand a broad range of conditions and help deliver the right drugs to the right people.”

As part of Birmingham Health Partners the University of Birmingham will lead one of six new MRC research sites across the UK created as part of a £54 million project funded by Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) to address challenging healthcare issues through use of data science; improving diagnosis, refining prognosis and personalising treatment for patients both regionally and nationally.

Professor Georgios Gkoutos, associate Director of HDR UK Midands, said: “This joint research institute and our collaboration with the West China Hospital offers the ideal setting to unleash the potential for data and technologies to achieve the breakthrough of ‘translational medicine to precision medicine’ and revolutionise the way we are able to prevent, detect and diagnose.”

Professor Wan Xuehong, Executive Vice President of West China Hospital, Sichuan University, said: ”I believe that through the strong alliance with West China Hospital and Birmingham University, we will make breakthroughs in rare diseases, precision medicine, and translational medicine, etc., for the benefit of people in both countries and even the world.”

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