Big data in practice: Canada and the UK join forces on dementia research
12 Mar 2015
The MRC Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) has joined forces today with the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) in a transatlantic effort to share data and research expertise in the fight to better understand, treat and prevent dementia.
The collaboration, agreed through a Memorandum of Understanding today, will link the vast amount of health and healthcare data which is collected as part of large population studies (called ‘broad data’) in the UK and Canada, with detailed clinical and biological data (called ‘deep data’) to create an international resource for dementia research. This ‘big data’ pool will give researchers a wealth of useful information about people’s health and lifestyle from a variety of environments, including care in the home and long term care facilities, which will be key in understanding how and why dementia develops.
The partnership has been announced on the first day of the Ministerial conference on Global Action Against Dementia (GAAD) hosted by the World Health Organisation. Ministers from around the world, as well as experts from the research, clinical and NGO communities, will discuss the global problems posed by dementia and the international efforts to tackle the issue since the G8 summit on Dementias in late 2013 and the launch of World Dementia Council. In their first report, the World Dementia Council highlights the DPUK/CCNA collaboration as an exemplar of global data sharing.
Dr Rob Buckle, Director of Science Programmes at the Medical Research Council said:
“This collaboration creates a powerful new data playground for dementia researchers. We know that advances in dementia research will rely heavily on exploiting the growing volume and richness of data available across disciplines and continents on individual and population health. By working together, sharing our science openly and harnessing the power of big data, we can make real strides forward in tackling and treating dementia.”
Professor John Gallacher, Director of the MRC Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) said:
“This collaboration is particularly exciting, not only because of its transatlantic flavour and the opportunities it presents to share deep and broad data from over two million individuals, but because it also addresses a UK gap in research in the care home setting, which could open up a new window of insight into the disease.”
Dr Howard Chertkow, Scientific Director at the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) said:
“The CCNA was created to catalyse dementia research in Canada and enable us to work in an innovative fashion with international colleagues. This MOU harnesses the considerable expertise in Canada in “Big Data” approaches to imaging and genetics and the mechanics of data harmonization and will move us towards closer collaboration with colleagues at the DPUK to support collaborative multi-disciplinary research on the causes and potential cures for dementia. Working together will give our scientists access to a new and powerful data source and move us towards data harmonization that will allow scientists in different disciplines from different countries to work collaboratively as never before.”
By joining forces, CCNA and DPUK will address scientific questions over a broader range of dementia related issues, including care delivery both within the home and in long term care facilities.
About Dementias Platform UK
The Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) is a multi-million pound public-private partnership, developed by the Medical Research Council, to accelerate progress in, and open up, dementias research. DPUK’s aims are early detection, improved treatment and, ultimately, prevention of dementias. DPUK is unparalleled in its approach, creating the world’s largest study group for use in dementias research, pulling together two million well-characterised participants from across a number of existing studies.
About the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA)
Established in 2014 with the support of the federal government of Canada and other entities through an innovative public, private and philanthropic partnership, the CCNA brings together 360 Canadian researchers in national teams spanning all aspects of dementia research from molecular genetics to health systems delivery. It is a national program with unique elements, (for instance a program to ensure that gender differences are a focus of dementia researchers). CCNA will create a cohort of 1600 intensely studied individuals with various dementias, and foster national and international studies of these individuals. By supplying an infrastructure, shared research platforms, and a cohesive research agenda, CCNA will accelerate current progress towards new treatments, better understanding of Alzheimer Disease and associated diseases, improved quality of life for patients and their families, and ultimately the cures for these conditions.