Secure Platform for Sharing Dementia Data to Take Ageing Research Global

Dementias Platform Australia will allow researchers to access data from multiple Australian and international dementia studies.
Secure platform for sharing dementia data to take ageing research global

In a new international collaboration, UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) recently launched Dementias Platform Australia (DPAU). This will allow Australian researchers access to research data from multiple dementia studies carried out in Australia and internationally.

DPAU is a partnership with the already established Dementias Platform UK (DPUK). It will enable new insights into ageing, age-related diseases and risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Underpinning the DPAU platform is a technology that supports the secure sharing of sensitive health data, enabling researchers to gain new insights on ageing without jeopardising patient confidentiality.

The Secure eResearch Platform (SeRP), a technology deployed at Monash University through an ARDC-supported research platform project, provides a secure online data analysis environment, making it easy for researchers to comply with ethical and regulatory requirements for using sensitive data.

Prof Paul Bonnington, Director of the Monash eResearch Centre said, “We have collaborated with Swansea University to adapt their gold-standard eResearch platform, UKSeRP, for implementation within the Australian context.

“It enables us to build on a decade of experience of the principles of researcher co-design, security by design and privacy by design gained by DPUK.

“Furthermore, this collaboration with CHeBA and Swansea University enables data sharing and secure data analysis to occur at an international scale.”

International Platform for Data-driven Research

The DPAU platform uses SeRP to securely house data on physical and brain health from studies conducted around the world. It will facilitate new insights into ageing, age-related diseases, and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Prof John Gallacher, Director of DPUK, said, “The close partnership between DPUK and DPAU will enable us to share technical assets and best practice, and to facilitate international data analysis. Science is data-driven, and we can help accelerate progress in dementia research by working together at a global level to improve data access.”

According to Dr Vibeke Catts, Research Manager at CHeBA and project leader of DPAU, dementia research will be reshaped through the hosting of data from international longitudinal and cross-sectional studies of brain ageing.

“Health and medical research has a significant impact on society and its value cannot be underestimated,” said Dr Catts.

“It allows for critical information about disease trends and risk factors, outcomes of treatment or public health interventions as well as methods of care and associated costs.”

“Through DPAU and our partnership with DPUK, we will be able to securely share and analyse all research data — including genomics and medical imaging data.”

Initially, DPAU will launch with data from one of CHeBA’s main consortia — Cohort Studies of Memory in International Consortium (COSMIC) — comprising 454 cohort studies from 33 countries and involving more than 150,000 individual research participants. DPAU will also host the data governed by the CHeBA Research Bank, including its Sydney Memory and Ageing Study, Sydney Centenarian Study and the Older Australian Twins Study. Data from these studies represent the work of CHeBA researchers funded by eight NHMRC grants over the last 13 years and have already formed the basis of over 250 research publications.

The ARDC-supported project is currently working with more research centres to deploy the SeRP technology. For example, the project team is currently working with the Australian Centre of Excellence in Melanoma Imaging and Diagnosis to use SeRP for secure online data analysis.

Learn more about the Secure eResearch Platform (SeRP) and our guide to working with sensitive data.

The article was adapted from CHeBA’s media release.

The ARDC is funded through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) to support national digital research infrastructure for Australian researchers.

DPAU is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to the Cohort Studies of Memory in an International Consortium (COSMIC) led by UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) Co-Director Professor Perminder Sachdev. COSMIC aims to identify risk and protective factors and biomarkers of cognitive ageing and dementia in diverse ethno-racial groups and geographical settings and currently comprises data from 44 studies across the globe. NIH funding of US$299,204 was granted in 2020 to establish a formalised data archive and enclave to address the limitations of data archiving and sharing within COSMIC.

DPAU access to the Secure eResearch Platform (SeRP) technology hosted at Monash University is supported by a National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) investment [P20E-058] [https://doi.org/10.47486/PL058] from Australian Research Data Commons’ (ARDC) Research Platforms program. It is led by Monash University and involves 5 other Australian universities.