Dr. Peter J. Embi

Editor’s Note: Regenstrief Institute has a growing number of important relationships with industry and corporate partners. As such, this column will be the first of two (at least) that will highlight these associations. The second column is planned for Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

Medical research that impacts the health of individuals and communities — locally, nationally and globally — is critical, and ensuring that the findings of that research are disseminated and implemented is essential. For many discoveries and innovations, asking and answering the important questions as well as ensuring that research findings have the greatest impact often requires perspectives and expertise from multiple sectors with diverse viewpoints. It is for those reasons that Regenstrief has been and continues to grow its engagement and partnerships with selected industries and corporate organizations.

There are many such activities ongoing across the Institute. The following are a few exciting examples where Regenstrief Institute has developed academic-corporate partnerships to advance health and healthcare.

Since 2012, Regenstrief scientists, data experts and Institute staff have had a strong collaboration with Merck, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. We have worked side by side with Merck teams on a range of projects that leverage the expertise and data assets under Regenstrief’s stewardship to study diseases and test healthcare interventions. Regenstrief and Merck share a commitment to improving the health of patients through data analytics, health care innovation, education and research that supports evidence-based health care.

To that end, the Regenstrief collaboration with Merck has been a model partnership, where topics are proposed and selected by either organization, and research is conducted. Often, the research involves the use of a valuable dataset that Regenstrief stewards on behalf of the Indiana Network for Patient Care (INPC), in collaboration with the Indiana Health Information Exchange, that reflects decades of real-life medical practice and patient behavior representing a wide and diverse range of backgrounds. To date, the partnership has yielded dozens of peer-reviewed papers, presentations and abstracts. Most importantly, many of the results have been disseminated and implemented to improve health.

One recent study that arose from the collaboration investigated a potential solution to parent reluctance to have their children vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV) and complete the multi-shot treatment course. Regenstrief research scientists Brian Dixon, Ph.D., and Steve Downs, M.D., led the work that found a positive impact from informational videos on parent decision-making regarding these CDC-recommended immunizations.

Shaun Grannis, M.D., director of our Center for Biomedical Informatics, appreciates the benefits of the collaboration, noting that, “Science is a team sport. … Learning the perspectives and collaborating with Merck scientists have enabled us to pursue research in a way we haven’t done before. It’s helped inform the tools that have been created. Merck has been willing to take risks with us, and that is what has made this relationship work. Together, we have a platform that we see being used to advance the art and science of data science that we believe will lead to real-world innovations to improve health care.”

Dr. Grannis, Paul Dexter, M.D., Mike Weiner, M.D., MPH, Jarod Baker, MBA, and I sit on the Regenstrief-Merck collaboration steering committee as we and our Merck colleagues look to a future in which we see the innovations we’re contemplating and studying making a real-world impact. Stay tuned for more news on this ongoing initiative!

Roche, Lilly, IBM, IBRI and Diabetes
Another exciting Institute collaboration involves Roche, Eli Lilly, IBM and the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, working to better predict diabetes-related kidney disease in patients with the chronic disease. Results of this study, which relied upon INPC data, were recently published in Nature Medicine by its 13 authors including institute investigator Titus Schleyer, D.M.D., Ph.D. We are proud to partner with longitudinal, real-world medical data sets to advance science and improve health.

Internal Regenstrief Office Consults with Private Sector
In addition to larger partnerships like these, we also have an office at Regenstrief dedicated to engagement with industry organizations that seek to leverage our Regenstrief resources, but might not yet be at the stage of a formal partnership. Directed by Jennifer Gatz, Ph.D, the Industry Research Office (IndRO) was created in March 2015 with the goal of securing industry funding for research. IndRO facilitates and supports industry-funded research partnerships, leveraging Regenstrief’s extensive resources and expertise. It’s been highly successful with 14 projects concluded and others underway and in the pipeline.

Under Dr. Gatz’s leadership, IndRO excels at managing collaborative scientific research partnerships as it provides innovative data analytics, and the expertise of faculty and research staff who are national leaders in their fields. Together, they produce quality, unbiased research that meets both the needs of the business sponsor and Regenstrief’s mission of creating pathways for better health.

As these examples illustrate, Regenstrief researchers and staff are doing a great deal of important work to enable discovery and innovation to improve health, and they are doing so in collaboration with myriad organizations. Our industry partners are helping us to advance research by leveraging our collective expertise and resources. Collaborating with industry partners has the potential to help enhance and grow the success and impact of our research and innovation missions. Building upon our rich legacy, we at Regenstrief continue to eagerly join forces with a variety of partner organizations to actively address the health and healthcare issues of today and the future.

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