The British Heart Foundation has launched the BHF Data Science Centre, alongside Health Data Research UK (HDRUK), which will deliver the data and data science needed to address some of the most pressing challenges in heart and circulatory health research.
The £10 million Centre will be headed by Professor Cathie Sudlow, a stroke and neurology doctor in Edinburgh and current Chief Scientist of UK Biobank. Professor Sudlow now begins the work of establishing the centre, shaping its mission and strategy, and ensuring the views of patients and the public are central to its activities.
Professor Cathie Sudlow, Director of the BHF Data Science Centre, said:
“As a doctor who has had the privilege of caring for patients, as well as conducting and enabling research studies that rely on large-scale patient data, I’m delighted to be leading this new centre. This new centre provides the UK with an unprecedented opportunity to use data for research that will deliver strategies for prevention, innovative new therapies and medical breakthroughs that will ultimately improve the lives of people affected by cardiovascular disease.”
Big data, big collaboration
The Centre will work in partnership with patients, the public, NHS, researchers and clinicians to promote the safe and ethical use of data for research into the causes, prevention and treatment of all diseases of the heart and circulation. Its work will be underpinned by HDRUK’s secure health data infrastructure, which upholds the highest levels of information governance, protecting the privacy and security of patients’ data. It will also benefit from alignment with HDRUK’s existing network of experts, its recently announced Health Data Research Hubs and the wider cardiovascular research community.
The BHF Data Science Centre will not hold data itself. Instead, it will work with the data-controllers to provide knowledge and expertise to help researchers from the NHS, academia and industry find, access, understand and connect the UK’s unique cardiovascular ‘big data’ that is distributed across national registries, NHS electronic medical records and other relevant datasets.
Transparency about using data
Professor Cathie Sudlow added: “We will partner with NHS organisations who will, at all times, remain the data controllers. We recognise how important it is that people understand how their health data is used, which is why we will work closely with patients, ensure the highest standards of data security and privacy, and will be open and transparent about how data are used.”
Entering the era of digital medicine
The ultimate aim of the centre is to enable responsible, ethical research that combines the power of advanced analytic methods with the UK’s large-scale and diverse cardiovascular data. The high impact outputs will help to shape better cardiovascular health services, provide patients and health professionals with the tools to make better decisions, and bring the latest medical discoveries to patients across the UK faster than ever before.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, British Heart Foundation Medical Director, said:
“The UK is blessed with many world-class heart and circulatory disease researchers, spanning a wide range of disciplines. But, as we enter the era of digital medicine, there’s a growing need to foster excellence in data science. At the BHF, we recognise the enormous potential of data science and want to create an environment where we can realise that potential. That’s why we’re working with the health research community, key stakeholders, professional bodies and UK data controllers to create the BHF Data Science Centre. Under Professor Cathie Sudlow’s leadership, the Centre has the potential to revolutionise the diagnosis, treatment and care of people living with heart and circulatory disease.”