tranSMART Foundation Teams With IBM to Bring Translational Medicine Data to Scientists, Merges With I2B2

tranSMART Foundation Teams with IBM to Bring Translational Medicine Data to Scientists, Merges with I2B2 May 24, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

BOSTON – Biotech researchers looking to harness the power of big data could have an easier time with the new partnership between IBM and the tranSMART Foundation, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization founded in 2012 with a goal of providing a platform to share pre-competitive data for use in designing transformational medicines.

The two organizations have collaborated on the foundation’s new tranSMART platform a global, open-source, open-data knowledge management platform that will allow scientists to freely share the data for early research purposes. The database will be run on IBM’s Power8 servers at the tranSMART Foundation’s Center of Excellence at the University of Michigan. By harnessing the IBM servers, the implementation will allow users to optimize research by enabling faster loading and analyzing of data.

The tranSMART platform was initially developed by Janssen, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary. However, that company soon realized the project was too large to maintain, so it was handed over to the foundation in 2012, Rudy Potenzone, the foundation’s vice president of marketing, said.

The database is open source, meaning it’s free for researchers to use. That was important for the foundation, Potenzone said in an exclusive interview with BioSpace. He said the platform will allow researchers to harness data that will help generate and validate hypotheses and discover cohorts in translational and clinical research.

“This is something that will help the scientific community develop and expand the tools of a new drug treatment program,” Potenzone said from Bio-IT World in Boston, where the new platform was unveiled. “Tools like this that are on the cutting edge of science. With open source, people can put things right into the code base. We believe that open-source tools in the scientific arena makes more sense in able to foster innovation and try new ideas.”

Using the IBM Power8 server will better equip the tranSMART platform to handle the big data needs of biotech researchers, Potenzone said. The platform is currently being used by about 150 different biotech and pharma companies, as well as academic-based research organizations. The platform is web-based, which makes it easily accessible for researchers. In addition to ease of access and use, one other attractive feature, due to the partnership with IBM, is the speed that research can now be performed. Potenzone said researchers can download datasets and find answers to research questions in minutes as opposed to hours.

“Using the IBM Power8 servers it allows for more sophisticated analysis. The system can give results in minutes, which is a huge advantage for scientists,” he said. “It’s now been optimized for greater performance.”

Not only is the tranSMART Foundation touting its updated open-source platform, the foundation is also celebrating its merger with I2B2 (Informatics for Integrating Biology and the Bedside), the Boston-based NIH-funded National Center for Biomedical Computing. Together the organizations will be known as The I2B2 tranSMART Foundation. The new partnership will expand tranSMART’s platform offerings to more than 300 organizations and companies due to I2B2’s existing client-base, Potenzone said. I2B2 manages its own open source database that is used by more than 200 U.S. and European hospitals.

The merger is intended to advance the field of precision medicine through the “sharing, integration, standardization, and analysis of heterogeneous data from healthcare and research, and through the engagement and mobilization of a life sciences focused open-source, open-data community,” the two companies said in a joint statement.

Keith Elliston, tranSMART’s chief executive officer, touted the precision medicine movement, which he said “promises to provide insights into the biological, environmental and behavioral mechanisms of disease to produce better diagnoses and treatments for the millions of individuals who need them.”

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