Health Data Research UK Supports Prime Minister’s Ambitions to Use Data to Transform Diagnosis of Disease

Published on: 21st May 2018

Health Data Research UK is a pioneering national institute set up in 2017 to make game-changing improvements in people’s health by turning data into knowledge. It welcomes today’s announcement by the Prime Minister to use data and artificial intelligence (AI) to transform the diagnosis of chronic diseases.
Funded by the Medical Research Council and eight public and charitable funders, Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) is bringing together the extraordinary computation and data analysis expertise we have in areas such as statistics and artificial intelligence from centres of excellence across the UK. Combining this with the unique array of health, biological and genomic datasets will lead to insights into the understanding of disease and the safe and effective use of medicines. This will be revolutionary for people’s health.

HDR UK works in partnership with universities, NHS organisations, charities, industry and other charitable institutes, including The Alan Turing Institute. Its initial investment supports six centres; each with world-class expertise; and a track record in using health data securely to derive new knowledge and scientific discovery.

The six HDR UK sites and their members are:

Cambridge– Wellcome Sanger Institute, European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), University of Cambridge
London– UCL, Imperial College London, King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Midlands– University of Birmingham, University of Leicester, University of Nottingham, University of Warwick, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
Oxford– University of Oxford
Scotland– University of Edinburgh, University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee, University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews, University of Strathclyde
Wales/Northern Ireland– Swansea University, Queen’s University Belfast

These centres will develop secure and controlled environments, within the highest standards of data security, privacy and ethical approval, to provide expert research data services and enable the ethical analysis and sharing of health care, clinical, genomic, biological and other multi-dimensional data. A number one priority is to undertake all research on data in a trustworthy, transparent way, ensuring all analyses are in the public interest. Public engagement and participation that is informed and shapes the research programme is vital.

Professor Andrew Morris, a physician and Director of Health Data Research UK, said:

“The UK undoubtedly has an outstanding opportunity to use data to improve the way we are able to prevent, detect and diagnose diseases such as cancer, heart disease and asthma and allow patients to benefit from scientific breakthroughs much faster. Our own work in diabetes, has shown that turning data into knowledge has improved co-ordination of clinical care, reduced life-threatening complications such as amputation and blindness, whilst shedding light on the genetic causes of disease.

It is not about creating one large database – data are kept separate and only linked when there is a legitimate purpose. Security and trust are achieved in layers, with multiple approaches concurrently at work that reduce data travel, separate personal identifiable data from other data, restrict access to accredited researchers, and use effective consent and anonymisation methods, whilst maintaining public participation.

We are committed to building upon best practice and to work with patients and the public to ensure data is used to serve the needs of society.”

Professor Chris Holmes, Scientific Director for AI and Health, The Alan Turing Institute and Health Data Research UK, said:

“We are delighted to see the exciting and timely challenges laid out for us by the Prime Minister today. The Alan Turing Institute and HDR UK have recently initiated a joint programme of research in health data AI. These two national research institutes, covering AI and health information systems, are uniquely placed to bring together the UK’s world leading data scientists to explore new approaches to AI knowledge discovery using digitalized health records.

Underpinning all our work is a respect for data governance and patient privacy, with dedicated teams working on these aspects. Together we will design new computer algorithms and new protocols for data governance that will keep the UK at the leading edge of health data AI, delivering real patient benefit and new scientific insights into the causes and consequences of human disease.”

Source: Health Data Research UK

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