School of Medicine

WashU Medicine, BJC HealthCare partner with new company to accelerate lifesaving research

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and BJC HealthCare are partnering with CuriMeta, a new company based in St. Louis, that will accelerate lifesaving research in the fight against chronic and acute diseases. (Photo: Getty Images)

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WashU Medicine) and BJC HealthCare are joining forces and partnering with CuriMeta, a new company that will accelerate lifesaving research in the fight against chronic and acute diseases that impact our communities. WashU Medicine and BJC HealthCare are engaging in this venture to bring sophisticated data sets in support of research that seeks to predict, prevent and cure a broad variety of diseases, using advanced, state-of-the-art technologies to protect patient privacy and confidentiality.

CuriMeta’s unique capabilities include specialized expertise in managing “real-world” data collections, which hold great promise in terms of making research faster and more efficient. CuriMeta will create a secure platform to share such real-world data sets with life science companies whose research goals align with those of WashU Medicine and BJC HealthCare, all while ensuring that patients’ identities are kept private at every step in the process.

As part of their collaboration, WashU Medicine, BJC HealthCare and CuriMeta will jointly select appropriate projects and collaborators. The collaborations will draw upon WashU Medicine’s expertise in developing advanced methods to protect patient privacy, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to create “synthetic data” sets, to ensure data shared by CuriMeta will be both high quality and meet current guidelines for safe and private health-data sharing.

“This company represents a new venture that is part of our distinguished role as a science-driven academic health system, leveraging our research capabilities to continually and exhaustively pursue ways to improve the health of our communities,” said David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of WashU Medicine, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor. “We will assist CuriMeta in identifying and vetting research opportunities with appropriate life science companies. Few health-care institutions have the breadth and depth of clinical research resources of WashU Medicine and BJC to bring about this kind of big data endeavor.”

Recently, real-world data sets played an essential role in informing our collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in the public health emergency, hospitals and physicians struggled to plan for surges of COVID-19 patients and to find safe and effective treatments. However, as more data was collected and used to enable research, scientists could more precisely characterize patient subpopulations and disease severity. This information helped health-care providers determine how best to deliver care to those individuals. These same methods can now lead to advances in our understanding of numerous other diseases, enabling the identification of cutting-edge therapeutic strategies, often in a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the cost of more traditional clinical studies.

For example, the analysis of large amounts of de-identified data from patients with neurodegenerative diseases could help researchers more accurately predict a timeline for symptom progression and aid the design of clinical trials that investigate earlier interventions for those individuals. Similarly, studying de-identified data from patients who have experienced heart attacks could help predict who eventually will develop heart failure and identify the best preventive measures.

“With comprehensive, de-identified or synthetic data, it becomes possible to rapidly identify new diagnostic and treatment strategies that may work well for a given disease,” said Philip R. O. Payne, PhD, the Janet and Bernard Becker Professor, chief data scientist and director of the Institute for Informatics at WashU Medicine. “For example, such data can help find new uses for existing drugs, and those therapies can be delivered to market quickly and more cost efficiently, complementing our existing strengths in drug discovery and clinical research, and in turn, providing more options to maintain health and treat disease.”