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UNB to help expand Canadian platform for federated AI-powered insights in genomics and precision health

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Apr 17, 2023

Category: UNB Fredericton

Today, a Canadian consortium led by DNAstack, and including the University of New Brunswick (UNB), is announcing the launch of a new project to expand the development of a software platform to enable federated, AI-powered insights across networks of genomics and health data. The Canadian Platform for Genomics & Precision Health (CP4GPH) is a $14.5M initiative co-funded by Digital that brings together domain experts with a shared vision to deliver better outcomes for Canadians by making it easier to connect and analyze exponentially growing volumes of distributed genomics and health data. The project builds upon the multi-award-winning software platform developed by its partners as part of previous collaborations.

In order to make insights that will transform care, scientists and decision-makers need data. These datasets are currently siloed between many different institutional, regional, and national systems, making it impossible to leverage their collective power to make discoveries. The traditional approach of centralized “data sharing” is not suitable because uploading copies of large and sensitive information to one datacenter is not fast, efficient, scalable, secure, or compliant, and does not empower individuals and organizations to retain control of their data, measure impact, or enforce attribution.

The solution being developed by the CP4GPH directly addresses this problem. It enables privacy-preserving “federated insights”, where questions can be answered by analyzing distributed datasets without moving them. All data remains in place, and so, instead of “moving data to the question” this new approach “moves questions to the data”. This is faster, more efficient, secure, scalable, and compliant, while allowing individuals and organizations to retain control of their data, measure impact, and automate attribution.

With this new platform, health data stewards can easily connect datasets into distributed networks and grant permissions for data consumers to be able to derive privacy-preserving federated insights across them. The system is being built in compliance with FAIR principles, open standards (e.g. GA4GH, FHIR), international privacy regulations (e.g. PIPEDA, HIPAA, GDPR), and is deployable within commercial cloud and HPC environments. The platform will be used to create and grow provincial, national, and international networks in neuroscience, oncology, rare disease, infectious disease, health care, and agriculture.

UNB’s New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training (NB-IRDT) will pilot the platform, leveraging its data research expertise and network of data custodians to validate and inform feature and process development.

“We believe that the future of genomics and precision health can only be achieved through collaborative innovation and discovery. With federated insights, we can finally break down the barriers that have traditionally prevented hospitals, researchers, clinical labs, governments, pharma, and other innovators from working together to unlock the full potential of data in a secure and privacy-preserving way,” said Dr. Marc Fiume, CEO at DNAstack. “We are excited to be at the forefront of this transformation, and to be working with incredible partners to push the boundaries of what is possible.”

“We are proud to see UNB’s New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training bringing their significant data stewardship and research expertise to the table as part of CP4GPH,” said Dr. David MaGee, Vice-President (Research) for UNB. “As one of the project’s talented and diverse partners, NB-IRDT will be well-positioned to help advance valuable, data-informed health research while also safeguarding the data privacy of Canadians.”

This initiative combines world-leading expertise in software engineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, genome sequencing, research, patient advocacy, health care, public health, diagnostics, therapeutics, standards, and policy. Project partners include Autism Speaks, Autism Speaks Canada, Cyclica, DNAstack, Genome Canada, Hoffmann-La Roche Limited (Roche Canada), Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, integrate.ai, McGill University, PacBio, the Public Health Agency of Canada, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), and University of New Brunswick, advised by Genome Alberta, Genome Atlantic, Genome BC, Genome Prairie, Génome Québec, Global Alliance for Genomics & Health (GA4GH), and Ontario Genomics.

For more information, contact info@dnastack.com.

About UNB

The University of New Brunswick (UNB) is Canada's oldest English-language university, and New Brunswick’s only national comprehensive university. Founded in 1785, the multi-campus institution has a rich history as well as a dynamic focus on innovation, experiential learning and entrepreneurship. UNB has more than 9,500 students from nearly 75 countries while several thousand more take UNB courses online and at partner institutions worldwide.

About DNAstack

DNAstack is a Toronto-based company whose mission is to save and improve lives by unlocking the collective power of the world’s genomics and health data. DNAstack’s software platform enables a global community of stakeholders — including precision medicine initiatives, research consortiums, patient advocacy groups, hospitals, startups, funders, pharma companies, governments, and citizens — to connect and analyze distributed datasets without moving them. DNAstack is a global leader in the development of open, interoperable standards as part of the Global Alliance for Genomics & Health (GA4GH) and has led multiple collaborative innovation projects as part of the Digital.

About digital

Ahead of the curve starts here. Digital grows Canadian businesses and anchor enterprises through the development, adoption and deployment of Canadian-made digital technologies that keep Canadians healthy, address climate change and drive economic productivity. Through a powerful model that combines cross-sector collaboration, IP creation, digital talent development and results-based co-investment, we unlock the potential of Canadian industry to lead and succeed in the digital world.