Big data gets a home at University of Pennsylvania’s medical school
February 21, 2013 by Stephanie Baum
University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia has established a dedicated center for biomedical informatics, underscoring the expansion of big data from drug development to population health.
The Institute for Biomedical Informatics will focus on improving patient care and the research that goes into personalized medicine, according to a statement from Penn Medicine. John Hogenesch a professor of pharmacology at Penn, who will serve as the interim director. John H. Holmes will serve as an associate professor of medical informatics in epidemiology.
In response to e-mailed questions, Holmes said about 40 faculty members at the medical school are involved with informatics. The institute will work in partnership with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and some schools at the university including the school of engineering and applied sciences, nursing and as well as veterinary medicine.
Asked how the institute will fit into Penn’s ecosystem, Holmes said: “We see our work fitting into the entire ecosystem, including healthcare, research, and education. Specifically, our three associate directors are seasoned experts in one or more of the five domains of biomedical informatics: translational bioinformatics, clinical research informatics, clinical informatics, consumer health informatics and public health informatics.”
One of the goals of the institute will be to educate students pursuing a new Masters degree program in biomedical informatics along with an existing Ph.D. program in genomics and computational biology.
Holmes said some emerging areas of interest within biomedical informatics are personalized medicine, where diagnosis and treatment is linked to the patient’s genome; social and behavioral medicine, with a focus on reducing health disparities through improving access to quality health information; and telemedicine, where the functionality of healthcare practitioners is extended beyond the traditional clinic or hospital.
In addition to Penn’s institute, there are at least two other dedicated centers to biomedical informatics. University of Texas at Austin has a school devoted to biomedical informatics. In Philadelphia,a center was set up by Drexel University.