Leonhard Med supports human research

The new ETH Technology Platform, dTIP, uses the Leonhard Med Service of ITS SIS.

Every day huge amounts of data are collected. It is estimated that Google conducts 5.7 million searches every minute and Teams connects 100,000 users[1]. With the emergence of new technologies in medical research, such as DNA sequencing, proteomics or wearable devices (smartwatches), the amount of health-related data collected for research projects is constantly increasing. The demand for secure IT infrastructures that can manage large amounts of sensitive data and be used for various research purposes is growing rapidly. It is estimated that in 2020, 2314 exabytes (10(18) bytes, one billion gigabytes, one million terabytes, one thousand petabytes) of health data were accumulated and that the amount of data will increase by 48% per year[2]. When dealing with sensitive data, regardless of its volume, security is extremely important: Health-related data is personal data requiring special protection, and its confidentiality, integrity and availability must be guaranteed at all times. IT solutions that support this should not only be secure, but also scalable, versatile and user-friendly. In addition, working with these IT infrastructures requires compliance with a number of regulations, guidelines and laws that apply to medical research projects when people themselves, their tissue or their data are involved.

“Health and medicine” is one of the focal points of the strategic roadmap of ETH Zurich[3]. Accordingly, several units are intensifying the digital transformation in medicine. ETH Zurich offers a bachelor’s degree in medicine and promotes collaboration between biomedical researchers and computer scientists[4]. What’s more, the ETH technology platform, “digital Trial Intervention Platform (dTIP)”, which was founded in 2021, has been commissioned to support ETH researchers in human research. The mission of dTIP is: “To support the generation of evidence for new medical solutions and human research”[5].

All researchers who use sensitive data (e.g., health data) in their projects have, among other things, the responsibility to protect the data accordingly. For this purpose, ITS SIS ETH Zurich offers the service “Leonhard Med Secure Scientific Platform”, which enables researchers to transfer, store, manage and process sensitive data (i.e., strictly confidential and confidential data)[6]. The service covers the entire life cycle of research data and supports the steps from data entry to archiving. The specific advantages of Leonhard Med are:

  • Security as a service, i.e., compliance with Swiss and ETH regulations for protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data
  • Flexible cloud-based research platform that can be tailored to match specific research needs
  • Collaborative research environment for ETH internal and external users

Furthermore, Leonhard Med is an interface to national and regional services and programs (e.g. BioMedIT[7], SPHN[8], PHRT[9], dTIP[10], LOOP[11]), which facilitates the connection of data providers, researchers, clinics, data and computer experts and exploits synergies in the secure handling of sensitive research data.

Spotlight dTIP and Leonhard Med at the ETH

dTIP is an ETH technology platform founded in 2021, which supports researchers with the production of clinical evidence and entrepreneurs with the regulatory aspects of product development. dTIP consists of three interdisciplinary expert units composed of specialists in medical studies, data management and regulatory affairs. They work with clinical and non-clinical partners from academia and/or industry to provide a high-quality service for medical trials and the entire lifecycle of product development[12].

It was not long ago that medical research with human participants was conducted exclusively on paper. dTIP is now focusing on the integration of new technologies and newly accepted forms of medical research, such as decentralised studies or the collection of so-called “Patient Reported Outcomes” (PRO). This requires a different approach to data management and processing.

dTIP uses Leonhard Med to collect, store and manage strictly confidential data from study participants. This data comes from various sources (for example participant surveys, routinely collected data in hospitals, wearable devices, etc.) and is securely transferred to and managed on Leonhard Med. Researchers who use the services of dTIP and Leonhard Med are professionally supported in the correct handling of particularly sensitive data and in the implementation of medical study projects. However, reconciling global service availability, simultaneous high security requirements and compliance with applicable laws and regulations continues to challenge dTIP and ITS SIS. Together, the team is working continuously on improving and maintaining the system.

Diana Coman Schmid, Lukas Brechbühl, Cristian Bovino and Anna Wiegand (all ITS SIS) work closely with Varvara Mitropoulos and the dTIP-Team (from left)
Diana Coman Schmid, Lukas Brechbühl, Cristian Bovino and Anna Wiegand (all ITS SIS) work closely with Varvara Mitropoulos and the dTIP-Team (from left)

[1] https://web-assets.domo.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/data-never-sleeps-9.0-1200px-1.png

[2] https://www.visualcapitalist.com/big-data-healthcare/, https://med.stanford.edu/content/dam/sm/sm-news/documents/StanfordMedicineHealthTrendsWhitePaper2017.pdf

[3] https://ethz.ch/en/the-eth-zurich/portrait/strategy.html

[4] https://ethz.ch/en/studies/bachelor/bachelors-degree-programmes/system-oriented-natural-sciences/human-medicine.html

[5] https://dtip.ethz.ch/

[6] https://ethz.ch/staffnet/en/it-services/catalogue/server-cluster/leonhard-med-secure-scientific-platform.html

[7] https://www.biomedit.ch/home.html

[8] https://sphn.ch/

[9] https://www.sfa-phrt.ch/

[10] https://dtip.ethz.ch/

[11] https://www.theloopzurich.ch/en/

[12] https://dtip.ethz.ch/

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