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UPMC Funds First Round of Projects in Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance

March 22, 2016
by Heather Landi
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UPMC announced it is funding the first six technology projects created under the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance with a focus on solving difficult healthcare challenges, such as reducing patient falls, preventing and monitoring pressure ulcers and improving the accuracy of cancer diagnoses.

With the funding, expected to total more than $3 million over the next six months, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers will developed technologies aimed at reducing patient falls, preventing and monitoring pressure ulcers, improving the accuracy of cancer diagnoses and providing personalized treatment recommendations, among other benefits. The funding will come from UPMC Enterprises, a division at UPMC focused on commercializing medical technology and services.

Announced in March 2015, the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance is a collaboration among UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh and CMU that is focused on building new companies that create data-intensive software and services focused on healthcare and wellness.

“We are excited to move forward with the first of many exceptional ideas in the Health Data Alliance pipeline,” Tal Heppenstall, president of UPMC Enterprises, said in a statement. “This promising start bodes well for the Alliance’s goal of transforming health care by unleashing the creativity and entrepreneurialism of leading scientists and clinicians in Pittsburgh.”

These first-funded projects are being developed by the Alliance’s CMU-led Center for Machine Learning and Health (CMLH) and Pitt’s Center for Commercial Applications of Healthcare Data (CCA). 

The first CMLH project is the Clinical Genomics Modeling Platform, an engine for easily building precision-medicine models for various diseases and populations. For instance, according to the UPMC media release, triage algorithms might help to determine if patients with a certain disease should be sent home with monitoring or sent to the intensive care unit.

 The funded CCA projects include MEDIvate, a patient-centered smartphone application designed for patients to update and share medication lists. Current medications will be added directly to the application from the provider’s electronic medical record or by the patient, ensuring accuracy and reducing medication errors as well as the Tumor-specific Driver Identification (TDI) System, software that will provide personalized genomic information to cancer clinicians about the genetic drivers of an individual patient’s tumors. “Tumor-specific algorithms will be used for real-time mining of genetic ‘big data’ that will enable personalized treatments for cancer patients. TDI also is expected to lead to the discovery of new cancer drivers and may be used by pharmaceutical companies to identify novel drugs, according to the UPMC.

Another funded project is Fall Sentinel, an automated system enabling clinical pharmacists to continuously monitor patients in nursing homes, especially for potential drug-drug interactions that might lead to falls. Nursing home falls are one of the most common and dangerous events for patients, with treatment costing the nation’s health system more than $4 billion each year.

The fifth project is PUMP, a solution aimed at reducing hospital-acquired pressure ulcers, affecting an estimated 3 million patients annually. The monitoring and alert solutions, using wearable devices and hospital bed sensors, will provide real-time documentation of patient repositioning and a process to improve compliance with these preventative measures. And, the sixth project focuses on ComPACD, or Computational Pathology for Accurate Cancer Diagnosis. According to the UPMC release about the projects, a software designed for pathologists to deliver more accurate diagnoses from complex tumor images.

 The leaders of these projects will further develop their ideas and examine their broader market potential, and, based on those results, UPMC Enterprises may provide additional funding and development help. 



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