Covid-19 Pandemic Underscored Importance of IT in Medical Research

Teams with skills in medical imaging analysis and machine learning were critical for sifting through Covid-19 data sets, according to a panel of researchers, technologists

A busy day at the emergency receiving area at Massachusetts General Hospital, June 16, 2020.

Photo: Kenneth Martin/Zuma Press

Data storage, cloud computing and artificial intelligence were important tools for Covid-19 investigators this year, as scientific teams learned about the virus and its impact on patients.

香蕉视频苹果下载Beginning in March, multidisciplinary teams with skills in medical imaging analysis and machine learning were critical for sifting through large Covid-19 data sets, said Jayashree Kalpathy-Cramer, scientific director at the Center for Clinical Data Science. The center is part of Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Many of us dropped all other research and tried to focus entirely on doing Covid modeling,” Dr. Kalpathy-Cramer said.

She joined information-technology executives from MGH, Gladstone Institutes and biotechnology company Ginkgo Bioworks on a virtual panel about Covid-19 research, which was hosted Thursday by data storage company VAST Data Inc.

香蕉视频苹果下载It was important to have large amounts of data storage, easy access to data and enough computational power to build complex AI models, Dr. Kalpathy-Cramer said. Researchers from various task forces at MGH have come together over the past several months to use AI algorithms in a number of ways, she said.

They are using AI models to predict which Covid-19 patients will require more advanced treatments and to estimate how many intensive-care unit beds might be needed at a given time, Dr. Kalpathy-Cramer said.

香蕉视频苹果下载Florencio Mazzoldi, head of digital technology at Boston-based Ginkgo Bioworks, said the company benefited this year from prior investments in cloud computing, videoconferencing systems and virtual private networks that enable secure remote work.

香蕉视频苹果下载The company’s so-called next-generation sequencing equipment can read, process and analyze many DNA and RNA samples at once. The platform has been repurposed to work on Covid-19 efforts, Mr. Mazzoldi said. For example, the technology is now being used to help researchers study how the virus is evolving and to scale Covid-19 testing.

“The pivot we’re doing is building a biosecurity muscle that we didn’t necessarily have before,” he said. The term biosecurity refers to efforts aimed at preventing the spread of infectious diseases.

香蕉视频苹果下载When remote work was instituted earlier this year, scientists at Gladstone Institutes, a San Francisco-based biomedical research group, were eager to begin investigating the new coronavirus from their homes.

香蕉视频苹果下载Scott Pegg, chief information officer at the Gladstone Institutes, said he had to quickly adapt, ensuring the scientists had more data storage and computing capacity, especially for sifting through medical imaging data. His goal was for IT to avoid becoming a bottleneck in their research efforts, he said.

“Those data sets pile up really quickly, and that’s where everyone wants to do the most computing…that’s a great application for AI,” he said.

Write to Sara Castellanos at sara.castellanos@wsj.com

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