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Memorial announces $50-million health partnership

James RourkeST. JOHN’S – Memorial University will receive $50 million over the next five years to support a healthcare initiative that will provide enhanced, personalized patient care through genomics and the use of analytics.

Less than 20 percent of applied medical research is translated into a possible device, medication or therapy. The launch of the new Translational and Personalized Medicine Initiative (TPMI) aims to change that by bringing bench research to the patient’s bedside.

Through the TPMI, patients will benefit from the latest and most innovative discoveries in health research, designed to improve health outcomes that have been specifically identified for them.

Partners in the TPMI are the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, jurisdictional partners and private-sector partner IBM.

“The overall goal of the TPMI is a collaborative approach to enhance the use of healthcare resources,” said Dr. James Rourke (pictured), Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University. “Increasing our capacity to bring evidence into the healthcare system and clinical practice can only result in improved health outcomes for patients and their families.”

Approximately $50 million will be invested in this program over the next five years, in partnership with Memorial University:

• A combined investment of $30 million from IBM, including $10 million in equipment and staffing and a further $20 million in-kind investment for big data and analytics software;

• Nearly $13 million from the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research SPOR SUPPORT Units program ($10 million) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency ($3 million);

• $7.2 million from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador;

The initiative is made up of two major programs – the Newfoundland and Labrador Support Unit and the Centre of Health Informatics and Analytics.

Newfoundland and Labrador Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials (NL SUPPORT):
The NL SUPPORT Program is part of a network of provincial and regional centres across Canada that brings together patients, policymakers, researchers, funders and healthcare professionals. The program is focused on creating resources that facilitate patient-oriented research in consultation with local stakeholders to provide patients with the latest and most innovative practices, therapies and policies for improved health outcomes. NL SUPPORT was created to provide the necessary infrastructure, training and tools required to allow patient-oriented research to thrive in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Centre for Health Informatics and Analytics (CHIA):
CHIA will facilitate research into patient outcomes and offer insight into how services may be improved through the use of high-performance computational infrastructure and de-identified patient datasets. Memorial researchers will have access to one of Atlantic Canada’s fastest computing environments. Each project undertaken under CHIA will comply with the Personal Health Information Act legislated with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and will also require research ethics board approval.

Projects under TPMI utilizing CHIA will address issues such as colorectal cancer, long-term care and laboratory utilization, as well as others.

Projects related to the Translational Genomics program include hearing loss, neurocognitive diseases, back pain, vision loss, colorectal cancer and breast cancer.

The integration of data will be governed under provincial privacy and ethics legislation.

“This collaboration is a terrific example of government, business and academia teaming to meet important economic and social needs through advanced research and innovation,” said Ralph Chapman, vice-president, public sector, for IBM in Canada. “This collaborative model will provide researchers with IBM big data and analytics technology and expertise to more quickly manage and analyze massive data sets around critical health-care challenges and ultimately, help improve patient outcomes.”

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