Pitt, Pfizer team up on health data analytics

November 16, 2016

PITTSBURGH--The University of Pittsburgh and biopharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. have announced a partnership to develop a computational model that will help identify the drivers of schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, and related brain diseases and enable researchers to better understand and treat the diseases.

Kayhan Batmanghelich, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Pitt's School of Medicine, will be the principal investigator in the one-year study. The goal of the study is to develop a statistical model that relates abnormal anatomical variations of brain structure to the underlying genetic markers of the diseases in order to develop an algorithm that explains causal relationships between such heterogeneous data, and to be able to use the method in similar settings for precision medicine.

In addition to the genotype data, measurements from magnetic resonance brain images will be used to characterize abnormal brain variations.

"By studying brain images and relating the variations of each brain region to the genetics and clinical observations of patients, we provide deeper insight about the underlying biology of the diseases," said Batmanghelich.

The study will use the publicly available datasets of ADNI (Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative) and private datasets of the GENUS (Genetics of Endophenotypes of Neurofunction to Understand Schizophrenia) Consortium, both of which contain images, genetic information, biological information, and clinical observations of patients, to develop software that can be used to associate the images with gene patterns.

"The exciting thing about this type of translational research with Pfizer is that it expands the research impact of what we do at Pitt, inclusively involves participation across our campus, and meets the core missions of both our University and industry partner," said Donald Taylor, assistant vice chancellor for commercial translation in the health sciences at Pitt. "Discovering the relationship between the disease status and the results of imaging and genetic positions to search for undiscovered variables in images and DNA also leverages our core commercial translation themes in precision medicine, brain health, and digital health. We wouldn't be able to do this specific research without an industry partner, and we're thrilled to have Pfizer's collaboration."

University of Pittsburgh

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