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Health Canada research project taps CANARIE for network

While Ottawa, Ont.-based CANARIE may not be the only FiOS infrastructure out there for high data yield research, there are a few reasons why it’s being used by 89 universities and 60 hospitals in Canada. It comes down to the nature of the work being done and the fact that it’s a closed network.

CANARIE CEO, Mark Roman, said the service is uniquely outfitted for research because of the speed of the network and the fact that it’s grant funded. “We’re specifically designed as a network for research … specifically tuned and designed to a researchers’ needs.”

Health Canada unveiled a new plan recently to promote and fund more patient-based research. This strategy will allow for more medical research to be conducted on health issues most important to Canadians while also developing strategies and solutions that better address the way we live.

Christopher Wynder, research analyst for London Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Inc. said “there is, essentially, no technical benefit (to CANARIE). And, in many ways, there’s no real benefit per se.”

What makes CANARIE unique, however, has more to do with the nature of the service they provide, Wynder said. “The problem is the type of data that (researchers) are dealing with and the rules and regulations around that data. To leave that to a private company would bring the whole government to a high level of risk.”

Because CANARIE is a non-profit service, funded by grants from the government, it is only accessed by government institutions. “(It benefits from) having a whole user population that understands the rules and regulations and has the want and needs to ensure those rules and regulations stay in place because their own liability is managed.”

Wynder said this type of access is invaluable for patient-based research, as the data that normally must be stripped out to protect the identity of patients in a commercial setting, can be less stringently removed in a closed research setting. He said access to that type of data, which adds the context of patient history, better informs research and can create less generic results.

“If you have this on a commercial vendor, you need to scrub away all of the relational information. You can’t have the patient’s history because the patient’s history is based on your ability to track them with their health card number. You can’t take the chance that that health card number gets out.”

Wynder really stressed how invaluable specific results can be where medical research in particular is concerned. “Unless you start breaking down and understanding what’s different about (your) population, there’s no way to cull down the single ‘these are the things we should go after first,’ from a global level.”

If it weren’t for services like CANARIE, there is a chance that the results of research won’t apply in Canada, or solutions won’t be as effective. Not only that, they might not address the specific targeted problems Canada has. “If you are a country like Canada, that has some specific problems that we’d like dealt with first, things like MS, which has a higher rate in our population than in the US…you’d like a Canada-specific answer the problem.”

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