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January 15, 2019

Health data consortium receives €8m EU backing in push towards personalised medicine

By Luke Christou

The iReceptor Plus consortium, made up of more than 20 partners from around the globe, has received €8.4m ($9.6m) in investment from the European Union and Canadian government as it pushes for advancement in human immunological data storage, integration and sharing across the healthcare industry.

iReceptor Plus is focused on collecting Adaptive Immune Receptor Repertoire  (AIRR) data, which will help researchers to better understand the immune system.

This data will be shared via an innovative platform accessible by researchers around the world, who can analyse data from both healthy patients and patients suffering with specific illnesses to reach informed conclusions.

The platform will run of free, open source software, offering the community the ability to adapt and alter the technology in order to increase its use.

Despite concerns about the collection and sharing of health care, the iReceptor Plus platform will include mechanisms to protect the data and safeguard against the exposure of private patient information.

The group, headed by Bar-Ilan University and based in Tel Aviv, Israel, received total funding of €7.85m from the EU’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, which aims to invest €80bn in smart, sustainable startups that will fuel future growth across the continent. The Canadian government invested €800,000 in the project.

Health data: More data, better treatment

While advancements in sequencing technology has provided access to far more detailed AIRR data with ease, bringing together the data collected by various researchers will help to further advance the understanding of immune responses, according to iReceptor Plus coordinator Gur Yaari.

“Most AIRR-seq data is currently stored and curated by individual labs using a variety of tools and technologies,” Yaari said.

“The platform will lower the barrier to access and analyse large AIRR-seq datasets which will ease the availability of this important data to academia, industry and clinical partners.”

By collecting and sharing these data sets, the group hopes for enable access to personalised medicines and immunotherapy treatments for patients suffering with cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune and infectious diseases, as well as those that suffer with allergies.

“We will offer a totally new class of biomarkers to support novel treatments,” Yaari said.

“The ability to share and compare AIRR-seq data will also promote the discovery of biomedical interventions that manipulate the adaptive immune system such as vaccines and other immunotherapies.”

Read more: Health data privacy: AI can be used to de-anonymise health data, experts warn

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