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Health Informatics in NC's 'SuperScieNCe' Database

Photo: shutterstock.com

By Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer

As the genomic era brings an avalanche of new data to health care, which states will have the capacity to parlay that information into more efficient and effective medicine? North Carolina, for one.

A study of the state’s life science landscape includes health informatics as one of six emerging life science technology sectors likely to flourish into the future. The Battelle Technology Partnership Practice identified the areas based on its analysis of innovation, research and industry activity among the state’s universities and companies. The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has labeled the six “SuperScieNCe.”

North Carolina has substantial university and company assets devoted to health informatics, a quickly evolving field that uses databases, electronic medical records, bioinformatics and other tools to support clinical decisions that improve health care efficiency, delivery and outcomes. Some examples:

  • Cloud Pharmaceuticals of Research Triangle Park is an “in silico” therapeutics company that uses cloud technology, supercomputing and quantum chemistry for faster and more information-driven drug discovery, design and development. The company’s technology, developed at Duke University, aims to predict accurately which molecules are likely to be the best drug candidates, reducing some of the expensive trial-and-error guesswork of traditional drug development.  Once promising molecules are identified, Cloud uses extensive virtual partnering to develop and test them.  The company and its partners have several drugs in development for a wide range of therapeutic areas including cancer, inflammation, central nervous system disorders and rare diseases. 
  • Allscripts, a publicly traded Chicago company with more than 1,200 employees in Raleigh, provides healthcare information technology solutions that advance clinical, financial and operational results.  The company’s open IT architecture platform connects people, places and data to deliver a single view of the patient record, enabling caregivers to make better decisions and deliver better care. The company offers dozens of software products and services to make doctor’s offices, hospitals, health systems and extended care facilities more efficient.
  • The Carolina Health Informatics Program (CHIP) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is dedicated to improving human health through health informatics research, data sharing, development, and education. CHIP conducts basic and translational research and offers graduate training in health informatics for scientists and for clinicians in medicine, nursing, public health, dentistry, and pharmacy. Program participants and graduates are applying their knowledge in hospitals and clinics, public health agencies, medical research centers and health-related companies.
  • The Duke Center for Health Informatics is an interdisciplinary center focused on producing a new generation of physicians, nurses and health care administrators with expertise in using informatics to improve healthcare. Students at Duke can study a full informatics spectrum including bioinformatics (genomic, proteomic, metabolomics, and imaging), clinical research informatics (Phase I through IV clinical trials), applied clinical informatics and health informatics (community and global health).
  • The Bioinformatics Research Center at North Carolina State University conducts research and trains students in the application of quantitative methods to massive biological datasets using computer science and statistics. Faculty and students study gene interactions, pharmacogenetics, protein sequence data interpretation, microarray data analysis and other topics with implications for personalized medicine and better healthcare.

What started out as bits and bites in garages and trailers is now quite a "bit" bigger. And it promises to take a bite out of suffering, while feeding North Carolina's future economy.

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