A European consortium of medical, research and higher education institutions is developing a network for banks containing digitalised images of human tissue—”biobanks”— which will help doctors to diagnose different types of possible cancerous tissues taken from patients’ biopsies in a shorter time. The seven partners across four European countries, including Brunel Business School in the United Kingdom, and other institutions in Spain, Netherlands and France are developing the project, known as BIOPOOL, with a budget of €2,500,000 from the European Commission.
Prof Francesco Moscone, Brunel Business School
“The network will enable clinicians to compare the image of a biopsy for a patient with biopsy images of a large number of other patients across Europe,” explained Francesco Moscone, Professor of Business Economics at Brunel Business School, Brunel University, west London, who is responsible for the business impact of this project.
“The benefits mean that there would be a faster and more accurate diagnosis of diseases, thereby preventing, or reducing, the need for multiple invasive tests.”
“Fast and accurate diagnosis will also help in identifying the more appropriate medical treatment, as well as reduce the length of hospital stay.”
The existing biobanks are organised collections of biological material and associated health information, for medical-scientific research and diagnostic purposes. In the recent years, biobanks have started digitalising their material, by scanning their samples and storing images and associated information in databases.
But the digital images are usually collected in various different formats, and stored in separated databases and facilities. While image collections carry very valuable knowledge in several fields, their exploitation requires tools to gather, access, visualise, and process large images.
Professor Moscone added: “From the point of view of medical research, the large amount of data shared within BIOPOOL will allow the scientific community to conduct more meaningful clinical trials, especially with respect rare diseases.The use of such interconnected sources of data is very promising, as it is expected to reduce diagnosis time and related costs,” he said.
Other Brunel Business School Team Members working on the BIOPOOL project include:
Roberto Bilbao, Director of the Basque Biobank for Research and coordinator of BIOPOOL project explained that the project involves a significant number of challenges, both technical and non-technical. It manages very large images, as digitalised bio-images are stored in huge files, even reaching 10-15 GB per image.
The scheme will aggregate data from biobanks until August 2014.
Professor Francesco Moscone is the Director of the Brunel MBA programme
and the former head of the Centre of Research into Entrepreneurship, International Business in Emerging Markets. He has previously worked at the University of Leicester, University of Cambridge, and London School of Economics (LSE). He has held visiting scholar positions at University of California-Berkeley, University Pompeu Fabra, and LSE. He has worked as health economist for the National Collaborating Centre for Women and Children’s Health, and the National Agency for Regional Health Services (Rome, Italy). He is principal investigator on an ESRC (UK government funding) first research grant entitled “Statistical Modelling of Interdependence in Economics”. Additionally he is co-investigator for the grant “Economic Performance and Quality of Life in European Cities” awarded by the Economics Education and Research Consortium. Francesco is also a co-investigator for the grant “Development of new indicators to assess research within scientific areas” awarded by the European Social Fund. Additionally Francesco co investigates a major EU grant entitled “Biopool- Services associated to digitalise contents of tissues in Biobanks across Europe”.
He is associate editor of the journal Economic Modelling and a Member of ESRC Peer Review College.