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MedUni Vienna is producing Big Data guidelines for research using sensitive patient information
January 13, 2017 News big data Medical Data


UNESCO Chair in Bioethics is developing an ethical and legal framework for large-scale European blood cancer project.

Vienna/Brussels, 10 January 2017 : MedUni Vienna is the lead partner in an international Big Data project for promoting the clinical investigation of haematological malignancies. The EU “HARMONY” project involves 51 partner institutions from eleven countries. MedUni Vienna – the domicile of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics at the Josephinum – is developing ethical and legal guidelines for the handling of sensitive patient information.

The aim of the recently launched “HARMONY” project, which is to run for 5 years, is to process large quantities of existing data from clinical research into haematological cancers (leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma, etc.) and to make them available for secondary use in the field of Big Data analysis. It is hoped that this will provide new approaches for treating blood cancer. The project is being financed by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) to the tune of €40 million.

When handling patient data provided by numerous research institutions, it is essential to ensure that patients’ rights are protected and data protection is guaranteed. For example, data may only be used anonymously or with the consent of the individuals concerned. The “HARMONY” project aims to create a technical, ethical and legal infrastructure to enable these data to be correctly used in the context of Big Data analysis.

The Josephinum (medical history, collections and ethics), home to the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, is responsible for heading up the “Legal, Ethics and Governance” work package. “As a competence centre in the ethics of medical research, we have taken on the task of developing and shaping this sensitive aspect,” explains Christiane Druml, Head of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Director of the Josephinum. MedUni Vienna’s industrial partners in the “HARMONY” project are the pharmaceutical companies Bayer and Amgen.

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