Sunday, October 30, 2011

Experts Speak at AMIA 2011

AMIA’s 35th Annual Symposium “Improving Health: Informatics and IT Changing the World” opened with NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins addressing more than two thousand professionals engaged in translational bioinformatics, clinical research informatics, clinical informatics, public health, and consumer health informatics.

Dr. Collins discussed plans for the planned National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), designed to speed up the process of “rescuing and repurposing” drug therapies out of the laboratories and into advanced clinical trials.

The expectation is for NCATS to continue the work of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) which are required to leverage informatics as a core component of their scientific structure.

Dr. Collins reported “In the ten years since the genome sequence was completed, the economic return has resulted in a return on investment of 141:1 a $3 billion investment leading to $790 billion in economic growth. He continued to point out that that medical research is not only a wonderful way to plan for revolutionizing more effective medicine, but also gives people a chance to live healthy lives and at the same time helps nurture the American economy.

The proposed NCATS Working Group held a meeting in September to make suggestions for some of the key areas ideally suited for NCATS activities. These suggestions include supporting innovative research, new partnerships, and regulatory science and its applications. It is also important to encourage the dissemination of research outcomes, harness the power of the CTSA program and form a strong national CTSA consortium, develop educational programs in translational sciences especially in under-represented fields, and streamline the administrative process to overcome roadblocks to rapid and effective funding and management.

Discussing other new ideas in the health technology field, Gregory Abowd, PhD, Distinguished Professor, School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, told the attendees how his research interests are centered on finding how to use advanced information technologies of “ubiquitous computing” or referred to as (ubicomp). The researchers are looking at how ubicomp can and will impact ordinary lives when technology is seamlessly integrated into daily living spaces.

Dr. Abowd is very involved with researchers working with body sensors, cameras, microphones, and sensors embedded in objects along with using mobile phones and text messaging to better manage chronic illnesses. His chief goal is to tap into a home’s infrastructure to sense and learn as much as possible about human activity to help manage health activities from a distance. Dr. Abowd projects that within five years, the majority of clinically relevant data will be collected in non-clinical settings.