Trustworthy Research Environment Q&A - Dr. Dennis Kehoe, Chief Executive Officer at AIMES

Trustworthy Research Environment Q&A - Dr. Dennis Kehoe, Chief Executive Officer at AIMES

Posted on: 15/05/2019

What is a TRE?

“A TRE is a trustworthy research environment, which is also often termed a data safe haven. They are digital infrastructures in which health data can be ingested and analysts can access the data using a set of advanced analytics tools. So typically we would take health data into the TRE in an anonymised or pseudonymised form and analysts would enter the environment through a two form factor authentication system. They would then carry out detailed analysis of the data, usually to try and identify new insights or clinical advances.”

“We describe TRE’s as having three separate zones. The first zone often termed the interoperability provisioning zone (IPZ) and is where the data is ingested into the secure environment. The second component is the data provisioning zone (DPZ), this is where the data is extracted, transformed and loaded into a format that can then be accessed by the analysts. The third zone is the analytics provisioning zone (APZ) which is typically a virtual desktop image (VDI) populated with an arrangement of advanced tools that allow analysts to carry out the kind of detailed examination to provide valuable insight.”

What are the benefits of a TRE?

“TRE’s allows secure and trusted access to data within a what could be called a “walled garden”. Not only does this allow us to maintain data security and the trust of citizens who provide their health data but it also provides an environment for sophisticated analysis of healthcare data. Typically tools such as R and SPS are used to validate research findings and increasingly new tools often under the umbrella term of AI are being developed for predictive analysis for machine learning. Furthermore, we are also seeing the demand for the analysis of unstructured data using natural language processing. The TRE allows all this to happen in a secure, controlled and innovative environment.”

Who should be using a TRE?

“Typically used by health data researchers most of those currently work at leading UK universities. However, the use of TRE’s is increasingly being undertaken within healthcare trusts across the UK. TRE’s enable clinical intelligence as opposed to business intelligence to be undertaken on healthcare data. Increasingly advances in healthcare and the way patients are treated will be driven by insights extracted from healthcare data. AIMES currently have a wide range of use cases from clinical trials to population health. Furthermore, we have also been looking at mental health data, cardiology research through to rare disease cancer research.”

Which organisations have been using them?

“Current users deploying AIMES TRE’s include the University of Cambridge, Universities of Newcastle, Liverpool, Durham, University College London and Kings College London. Recently research organisations such as Cancer Research UK and Mersey Care mental health trust have been deploying TRE’s to help them analyse their data more securely and efficiently.”

What services can be hosted within a TRE?

“Typical of the services hosted are, digital air locks which allow data to be securely ingested and imported/exported from the TRE with full audit traceability. Natural language processing technologies such as Cogstack and semantic analysis platforms such as those from Imosphere are also included.”

How can you find out more about TRE’s?

“To find out more about the architecture and applications of TRE’s please contact enquieres@aimes.net to organise an initial meeting or call.”