CTSI awards nearly $40,000 to health informatics research projects

Two University of Minnesota research teams have received funding through the inaugural Informatics Seed Grants Program, a joint initiative from CTSI’s Biomedical Informatics (BMI) function and the Institute for Health Informatics (IHI)

The grant program supports University junior faculty that pursue innovative health informatics research that lays the groundwork for successful extramural grant funding.

Each of the following funded projects will receive $19,523:

Personalized health informatics and microbial biomarkers to predict and prevent bloodstream infection in chemotherapy

Investigators: Dan Knights, PhD (Department of Computer Science and Engineering); Shernan Grace Holtan, MD (Department of Medicine); Alexander Khoruts, MD (Department of Medicine)

The research aims to develop a drug containing a mixture of specific laboratory-grown microbes that will reduce the risk of bloodstream infections (BSIs) in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, improving their chances of survival. By using the drug in tandem with an informatics-based diagnostic tool, it will identify high-risk patients to indicate treatment. Grant funding will support the development of a personalized health informatics pipeline that informs health care decision-making by predicting BSI risk before beginning chemotherapy, and identifies microbial biomarkers for commercializing a probiotic-based, preventive therapeutic drug.

Spatiotemporal patterns of pneumococcal pneumonia in Minnesota

Investigators: Pui-Ying Iroh Tam, MD (Department of Pediatrics); J. Michael Oakes, PhD (Division of Epidemiology); Steven Manson, PhD (Department of Geography, Environment and Society); Leonard J. Kne, MGIS (Department of Geography, Environment and Society)

This proposed study will determine if there are spatial patterns (beyond distance) for areas of increased pneumococcal pneumonia disease incidence, and more broadly, association with social and environmental covariates. The project will geocode patient locations from the University’s Clinical Data Repository -- which houses the electronic medical records of more than 2.3 million patients -- and combine it with spatial data for covariates. By defining distinct, local patterns, the project aims to improve infectious disease surveillance and control, and ultimately help in future modeling of epidemics and preventive initiatives.

Applicants were evaluated by a review committee led by Professor of Health Informatics Stuart Speedie, PhD, and were based on the following criteria:

  • Impact for translational scientific and clinical potential
  • Informatics methods innovation and soundness
  • Strength and interdisciplinarity of team
  • Potential for extramural funding

Both CTSI’s BMI function and IHI are providing support for research proposals that were not funded this round, such as assistance seeking suitable extramural funding as well as data and informatics expertise that can help expand and strengthen preliminary results toward extramural funding.