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Blog: Three data hubs revolutionising how we use data

Earlier this month we brought together three of the Health Data Research UK hubs to talk about ‘All matters data and all data matters’. Here, our Events and Missions Manager, Sarah Bruce-White, gives us a run down of the key takeaways from the event and how these hubs are revolutionising the use of data to improve healthcare.  

‘Health Data Research – all matters data and all data matters’ on 03 February 2021, was a fascinating introduction to the health data research hubsand how they are working with industry, academia and health services to contribute to the health of the nation. 

For those that missed it, the following provides a small flavour of the background to why we wanted to highlight the hubs’ work in this way, and what we learned about the work they are doing.

The full recording of the event is also available here.

The power of data

As cited in a recent EY global health report, unlocking the power of health care data to fuel innovation in medical research and improve patient care is at the heart of today’s health care revolution. The report estimated that, if the 55 million patient records held by the NHS today could be translated into curated data sets, the benefits that could be unlocked could have a valuation of several billion pounds per year.

Health data research hubs 

The health data research hubs were set up as part of a £37million investment from the Government to create a UK-wide system for the safe and responsible use of health-related data on a large scale. Led by Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), the seven hubs bring expertise in different areas including cancer, real world evidence, eye disease, advanced analytics and artificial intelligence. Individually and together, they are working to support earlier diagnosis, the discovery of new treatments and more efficient health management systems, all of which have the potential to transform patient lives and improve health outcomes.  

The hubs are making high quality data sets available via an online portal – the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway (while maintaining strict controls around data privacy and consent).

Bringing the hubs together

MedCity works to support business to access the complex life sciences system. We help businesses find research expertise, investment and space – all the ingredients needed for the growth of the sector – so it was great to work with the hubs on this event.  

Moderated by Neelam Patel, CEO of MedCity, we brought together three of the seven data hubs – Discover-NOW, DATA-CAN and INSIGHT – to introduce them and their work to innovators in industry. Almost 300 people registered for the event, which proved to be a fascinating insight into the work the hubs are doing.  

Discover-NOW  partnering with industry to benefit the NHS 

Discover-NOW is the hub for real-world evidence and supports access to one of the largest depersonalised linked health data sets in Europe which brings together real-world patient health data, in a safe, secure and Trusted Research Environment (TRE). Their combination of linked costed data, expertise and technology creates unrivalled opportunity to show how real-world data can be used to test innovations and transform health and care. They are disease agnostic, with over 80 different projects underway across a range of partnerships and disease types. 

Their presentations by Amanda Lucas, Director of Imperial College Health Partners (who host Discover-NOW), and Dusan Saska, Business Development Lead, showcased the achievements that can be made through effective partnership and engagement with industry. 

Their partners include IBM, Google, AstraZeneca, Jansen, Novartis, Imperial College London and NorthWest EHealthDusan Saska explains:  

“At Discover-NOW we aim to transform the delivery of healthcare by bringing life sciences, health-tech, academia and the NHS together in partnership through data. Through strong partnerships combined with our expertise, technologies and access to linked real world data, we can together transform innovations and patient care.”  

Case studies presented included a diabetes intervention, run in partnership with Huma and AstraZeneca, which aims to improve the delivery of type 2 diabetes care. Through identifying patients most at risk of complications, facilitating pro-active interventions, enabling the development of tailored digital health solutions, and allowing for real time management of those solutions, the partnership offers a complete end-to-end service. 

Further case studies on their COVIDLife survey, OWISE digital tools for breast cancer patients, and atrial fibrillation project, all showed the breadth and scope of the projects Discover-NOW is working on.

DATA-CAN – working across all 4 nations 

DATA-CAN aims to improve the care outcomes for people with cancer by making high quality healthcare data more accessible for cancer researchers and health professionals. Unique in that they are working across all four nations, the hub is hosted by UCL Partners, with founding partners also including Leeds University Teaching Hospital, Queen’s University Belfast, Genomics England and IQVIA. 

James Peach, Commercial Director for DATA-CAN, and Matt Cooper, former Chief Operating Officer, made a strong case for the importance of working in unison across all four nations, as well as the increasing need for researchers to be able to access real-time data. A striking example of this was the case study they presented on their recent work highlighting the effects of COVID-19 on cancer services and cancer patients. This included showing drops in referral rates and chemotherapy attendance. 

After the event, James Peach said: 

“The seminar with MedCity, Discover-NOW and INSIGHT provided DATA-CAN with an excellent opportunity to explain how we work with patients to enable health data research, including projects with UK start-ups and global pharmaceutical and technology companies. We hope that by giving examples of real-world evidence, health economics and outcomes research, as well as advisory projects which we have delivered for commercial organisations, the NHS and universities, we were able to give potential new partners an insight into how we can work together on cancer data access and analytics.” 

INSIGHT – using deep learning to transform eye care 

INSIGHT is the health data research hub for eye health, focused on eye disease and its application to wider health, including diabetes and dementia. Using data from Moorfields Eye Hospital (the oldest eye hospital in the world and the largest in Europe or North America) and University Hospitals Birmingham, they are allowing researchers to develop new insights in disease detection, diagnosis and treatments. 

Dr Pearse Keane (Consultant Ophthalmologist at Moorfields, Associate Professor at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, and Deputy Director and Chief Data Officer for INSIGHT) delivered a fascinating view on the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to transform healthcare. INSIGHT is at the forefront of the use of AI in ophthalmology, and is working closely with DeepMind on the most sophisticated application of AI – deep learning.  

With nearly 10 million NHS appointments per year, and rising, there is a rich potential source of data in ophthalmology, and since INSIGHT was formed, they have created the world’s largest bioresource of ophthalmic data.  

Dr Keane described the impressive work being done to develop a deep learning system that looks at an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scan and evaluates it for more than 50 different sight-threatening retinal diseases, prioritising the most threatening. The hope is that, in the future, we can link community optometry and hospitalised services, to bring world class expertise into the community and maybe even into the homes of patients.  

We also heard some fascinating examples of how INSIGHT’s deep learning work has spanned into an area termed oculomics – the idea that we can use the eye as a window to the rest of the body, to gain insights into systemic health. 

Dr Keane’s presentation is sure to have sparked interest for researchers. As he highlights: 

“INSIGHT’s core mission is to connect researchers with the highest quality eye data in a safe and ethical way. We’ve already shown how, using AI, this can lead to dramatic advances in patient care, and we look forward to working with organisations large and small to develop the next generation of treatments and health technologies.”

The future of data hubs

Speaking after the event, Ben Gordon, Executive Director of Hubs and Data Improvement at HDR UK, summed up by saying:

“We are proud of the impact all of the Hubs have had since they were launched in 2019. Together, they have demonstrated that there are clear benefits provided by the Hubs’ unique approach for researchers, innovators, patients and the public. We look forward to replicating this success and enhancing the UK’s health data research and life sciences landscape with new Hubs in the near future.”

Watch on-demand

If you missed this incredibly insightful event, you can watch the recording here.
Watch the event on-demand 

Connect with MedCity  

As the life sciences cluster for London and the Greater South EastMedCity is here to help navigate and grow the life sciences sector, supporting economic growth and the health and wealth of the nation. We recognise that health data and AIenabled technology is increasingly important for improving patient outcomes and that the ecosystem is complex to navigate. 

Our deep networks can support connections and collaborations, convene stakeholders and enable businesses to establish those all-important relationships and connections. To connect with MedCity, who, in turn, can provide those all-important connections please e-mail me or 

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