Open-access database to boost infectious disease research

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An international team of researchers has launched an open-access online database for researchers addressing pressing global health concerns.

Population-based epidemiological studies provide exciting new opportunities for innovation and collaboration among researchers. However, the technical challenges of sharing and mining gigantic datasets can hamper such efforts.

To overcome these hurdles the Clinical Epidemiology Database (ClinEpiDB) has been launched to enable researchers to broaden the reach of their data, and make use of information released by others.

Professor Christiane Hertz-Fowler from the University’s Institute of Integrative Biology is part of the team that led the development of ClinEpiDB, which also included researchers from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Georgia in the USA.

Many journals and funders encourage, and often require, scientists to make their study data available, but doing so in a useful way can be difficult for data-providers and users alike. ClinEpiDB aims to mitigate these issues by creating standardised processes for accessing and exploring complex clinical data.

ClinEpiDB streamlines the data gathering process using the same computational framework that was developed 20 years ago for the Eukaryotic Pathogen Database (EuPathDB) - a thriving genomics resource for integrative analysis of microbial eukaryotes that is currently accessed by more than 72,000 unique visitors monthly from around the world.

The first dataset to be released on the ClinEpiDB platform includes more than 40,000 clinical observations from a malaria surveillance program. Further studies in the pipeline for release include two large global enteric disease datasets funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Steve Kern, deputy director for quantitative sciences at the Gates Foundation says: "Our mission is to improve global health and reduce inequality, and achieving these goals depends on accessing and interrogating the wealth of available information produced by the global scientific community. We are optimistic that resources like ClinEpiDB will help make information produced by the foundation and its global partners available to all and enable us to take advantage of information from others, expediting scientific discovery and evidence-driven translation to improve human health worldwide."

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