< Contents ERCIM News No. 60, January 2005
SPECIAL THEME: Biomedical Informatics

The BIOPATTERN Network of Excellence

by Emmanuel Ifeachor, Jo Thompson-Byrne and Michalis Zervakis

The 'Computational Intelligence for Biopattern Analysis in Support of eHealthcare' (BIOPATTERN) project is a Network of Excellence funded under FP6, Information Society Technologies Programme of the European Union.

The Grand Vision of the project is to develop a pan-European, coherent and intelligent analysis of a citizen's bioprofile; to make the analysis of this bioprofile remotely accessible to patients and clinicians; to exploit the synergy of information from different sources of medical and bioinformatics and the bioprofile to combat major diseases such as cancer and brain diseases.

The two key words in the project are biopattern and bioprofile. By biopattern, we mean basic information (pattern) that provides clues about the underlying clinical evidence necessary for diagnosis and treatment. Typically, it is derived from specific data types (eg genomic microarray, EEG and MRI) in a single medical investigation. A bioprofile is a personal dynamic 'fingerprint' that fuses together a person's current and past bio-history, biopatterns and prognosis. It combines not just data, but also analysis and predictions of future or likely susceptibility to diseases.

The focus of the project is to see how far we can go to realising the vision of a citizen's bioprofile; to identify barriers to the vision, to examine ways in which the bioprofile could be exploited for personalised healthcare, and to exploit synergies across boundaries, eg between bioinformatics and medical informatics, and between clinical areas. The project aims to identify how bioprofile could be exploited for individualised healthcare such as disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

The Grand Vision of the project opens up the possibilities of the development and support for future omnipresent and personalised active health support systems. Ultimately, a bioprofile would be constituted from data, information and analysis of a person's medical condition, involving sub-cellular genomic and proteomic information, intermediate scale phenomena such as EEG, MEG and ECG, and macroscopic scale patient records, demographic data, and body and brain imaging. This bioprofile could be dynamic and distributed across multicentres.

There are many barriers to the Grand Vision, including technological as well as ethical, security, and operability. BIOPATTERN integrates the research efforts of 31 institutions across Europe to tackle and reduce fragmentation in the new field of biopattern and bioprofile analysis which will underpin eHealthcare in the post genome era. It brings together leading researchers in medical informatics and bioinformatics from academia, the healthcare sector and industry in a new way, harnessing expertise and information to put Europe at the forefront of eHealth. The Network is set up to address, integrate and co-ordinate research efforts into the following generic themes:

  • data acquisition
  • analysis
  • evaluation and bench marking
  • e-delivery
  • special interests areas - brain diseases, cancer and bioinformatics
  • dissemination and exploitation
  • management and co-ordination.

By organising the joint programme of activities into generic themes, this facilitates integration and ensures that our combined research efforts are channelled into the development and applications of techniques that have hitherto been undertaken in isolation. The specialist interest areas enable us to identify needs and priorities, to apply and evaluate new techniques, to ensure proper co-evolution of techniques and applications.

The idea of the Grand Vision is to move away from local solutions to local problems and towards European-wide solutions to European problems. Thus, the joint programme of activities include making information from distributed databases available in a secure way over the Internet, and providing on-line algorithms, libraries and processing facilities, eg for intelligent remote diagnosis and consultation. This will require the development of new and robust computational intelligence algorithms for biopattern analysis to support such facilities, including reference models of patients in the form of intelligent systems. Taken together, these will represent a unique on-line resource which can be used for remote diagnosis, decision support, trials and for medico-chemometrical research purposes. For example, for cancer diagnosis we would envisage a hospital (anywhere in Europe) would supply the necessary bio-profile, an appropriate set of algorithms are then used to analyse the bio-profile, on suitable machines which may be distributed, possibly utilising large distributed database(s) of examples, and the outcome of the analysis is then returned to the user.

The BIOPATTERN project is designed to reinforce European strengths in areas where it has established industrial and technology leadership (particularly true in the area of advanced biomedical data analysis), to overcome weaknesses in areas which are critical for European competitiveness and for addressing societal challenges (through the Vision of a citizen's bioprofile), to exploit new opportunities (through cross boundary networking) and respond to emerging needs, and to ensure the co-evolution of technology and applications.


Please contact:
Jo Thompson-Byrne, Manager,
University of Plymouth, UK

Emmanuel Ifeachor, Project Coordinator,
University of Plymouth, UK
Tel: +44 1752 232574

Michalis Zervakis,
Technical University of Crete, Greece,
Tel: +30 28210 37206