Informatics Institute will bridge big data and biomedical research

Selwyn Vickers 2013-17Underpinning UAB’s emphasis on personalized medicine and genomics is informatics — collecting, processing and making massive amounts of data available to researchers and clinicians in ways that advance research and advance patient care.

“The UAB Informatics Institute will transform UAB into a learning health-care system,” said Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., senior vice president for Medicine and dean of the School of Medicine at UAB.

UAB’s new institute, approved by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees June 13, will work in tandem with UAB’s Personalized Medicine Institute and the UAB-HudsonAlpha Center for Genomic Medicine to enlist scientists and physicians to target a multitude of diseases and disorders.

Its creation parallels the National Institutes of Health “Big Data to Knowledge” initiative to support research, implementation and training in data science to make data more readily available to help drive biomedical research. Vickers said UAB Informatics Institute will develop four key areas:

  • data management,
  • software expansion and development,
  • bioinformatics to support and propel medicine and health care, and
  • education to support research and clinical activities and train future informaticians.

The Institute of Medicine, of which Vickers is a member, began creating the learning health-care system concept several years ago to drive the process of discovery as a natural outgrowth of patient care and to ensure innovation, quality, safety and value. “In a learning health-care system,” Vickers said, “data are continuously collected, shared, analyzed and used to propel clinical care, research and education.”

The School of Medicine will conduct a national search for a director of the Informatics Institute.