Announcing UCI Institute for Precision Health

February 15, 2022

Hal Stern, Provost and EVC, and Steve Goldstein, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, announced today the launch of the UCI Institute for Precision Health (IPH), an endeavor that combines our health sciences, engineering, statistics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, clinical genomics, data science, public health, and healthcare delivery system capabilities to provide personalized and effective health and wellness strategies. Driven by computer algorithms, statistical theory and predictive modeling, precision health uses advanced data analysis to make patient-controlled, personalized treatment and lifelong health maintenance plans possible. In doing so, IPH will confront the linked challenges of health equity and the high cost of care.

IPH co-directors Tom Andriola and Leslie Thompson. Steve Zylius / UCI

While the vision for IPH has long been in the works, the pandemic expedited a soft launch, showing how rapidly critical medical needs could be met. In 2020, UCI researchers, healthcare providers, and data scientists joined forces to create the COVID Vulnerability Index, a data-centric method of assessing the risk for COVID-19 patients and using that information to make treatment decisions.

IPH aims to change the healthcare landscape, focusing on the individual patient to empirically identify the most effective health and wellness strategies at a personal level. IPH will assess if the cost of treatments are validated by their utility, and open doors for breakthroughs in diseases where no current treatments change the course of the disease, such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s. The institute’s success will be measured by improvements in individual and community health.

IPH is an interdisciplinary ecosystem for collaboration across seven areas, including:

  • SMART (statistics, machine learning, artificial intelligence) develops novel statistical methodology to integrate and analyze health records, molecular data, and observational clinical outcomes. The unit is led by Daniel Gillen, Professor and Chair, Statistics, and Zhaoxia Yu, Associate Professor, Statistics.
  • A2IR (applied artificial intelligence research) designs practical solutions to real world clinical problems and cost-effective, value-based care. It is led by Peter Chang, Assistant Professor-in Residence, Radiological Sciences.
  • A3 (advanced analytics and artificial intelligence) brings solutions to inpatient, ambulatory and community settings and supports pilot applications. The area is led by Daniel Chow, Assistant Professor-in Residence, Radiological Sciences.
  • Precision omics generates, analyzes, and administers genomic, proteomic, and chemical data. It is led by Suzanne Sandmeyer, Professor and Grace Beekhuis Bell Chair in Biological Chemistry, and Leslie Thompson, Donald Bren Professor and Chancellor’s Professor, Psychiatry and Human Behavior and Neurobiology and Behavior.
  • Collaboratory for health and wellness (powered by Syntropy) houses the dynamic analytics platforms and patient-controlled data at the core of the IPH ecosystem. The group is led by Tom Andriola, Vice Chancellor, Information, Technology and Data, and Kai Zheng, Professor, Informatics.
  • Deployable health equity brings IPH into communities to create solutions to narrow the disparities gap in the health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations. The unit is led by Dan Cooper, Professor, Pediatrics and Associate Vice Chancellor, Clinical and Translational Research, and Bernadette Boden-Albala, Director and Founding Dean, Program in Public Health and Professor, Population Health and Disease Prevention and Epidemiology.
  • Education and training, with leadership from each of the above areas, brings courses, seminars, certificates and degrees in statistics, machine learning-artificial intelligence, omics, and bioinformatics to practitioners and students.

“We are thrilled to launch this Institute and believe its work is an important step toward a healthcare revolution that will empower patients, confront health inequities, decrease cost and impartially judge the effectiveness of medications and devices,” Provost Stern and Vice Chancellor Golstein said in the joint announcement. Operating now as an institute without walls, IPH aims to have a brick-and-mortar home on the UCI campus, which will serve as a hub to educate data-informed clinicians so they can practice at the top of their licenses, train data scientists to collaborate with clinical practitioners to develop the analytic tools that will drive the field, house personnel to facilitate translational research, and serve as a location for both community outreach and industry collaborations.

Read the full press release here.


FAQs

What is precision health?

Precision health is a powerful approach that uses data science to help prevent disease and accurately predict, diagnose and treat individual patients as is best for them. Its practitioners employ data – information about patients – and analytics to provide more exact and effective health plans. Precision health is also a major step forward for investigators who study the causes of diseases, including aspects both inherent to the person and subject to environmental influences. As practiced at UCI, it’s also patient-centric, empowering individuals and communities to control and use their own data.

What is UCI’s Institute for Precision Health?

IPH consolidates all of UCI – our health sciences schools, centers and institutes; our healthcare system; and the deep subject matter expertise that exists in our other schools, including computer science, engineering, biological sciences, business and law – in the application of data science, machine learning-artificial intelligence, genomics-multiomics and public health measures to individualized healthcare. It fosters a revolutionary mindset that erases silos in an integrative approach that leverages the collection, curation and analysis of data to deliver the most effective health and wellness strategy for each person. And in doing so, the institute confronts the linked challenges of health inequity and the high cost of care.

How did UCI’s IPH come to be?

IPH had long been the vision of UCI leaders, including Chancellor Howard Gillman. COVID-19 hastened the launch by serving as a catalyst for combining efforts across the university to optimally confront the pandemic. In 2020, the elements of IPH coalesced as UCI clinicians, biomedical and computer scientists, and public health experts joined forces to create an AI-driven tool to assess the critical care needs of COVID-19 patients. This app-based tool, the COVID Vulnerability Index, demonstrated that a data-driven approach coupled with world-class clinical therapeutics could help yield the best outcomes for individuals.

Where is IPH located?

Like most teams during the pandemic, IPH is now operating virtually, but our vision includes a brick-and-mortar location on the UCI campus and, of course, a robust digital presence. IPH will serve as a hub for innovation, offering space, molecular tools, computational expertise and platforms for clinicians, researchers, community members and industry partners to collaborate on pushing the boundaries of discovery and practice. Through the process, all will gain valuable skills to advance patient-centric, data-directed care now and – via training the next generation of researchers and providers – far into the future. More information will be forthcoming.

Who is involved in IPH?

We have nationally recognized physicians, nurses, pharmacists, public health experts and other healthcare practitioners in leadership positions. We also have in key roles some of the nation’s finest minds in computer science, healthcare data generation and analytics, and machine learning-artificial intelligence. Our external collaborators include industry leaders such as Syntropy and MITRE and community partners including Children’s Hospital of Orange County and the VA Long Beach Healthcare System. Additionally, UCI is part of the University of California system, with its 10 campuses and six health centers. This gives us tremendous talent and span to leverage UCI’s capabilities and commitment as a fair broker for health data, placing the individual patient first.

IPH is spearheaded by Steve A.N. Goldstein, MD, PhD, FAAP, UCI vice chancellor for health affairs. He brings more than 30 years of experience in health sciences research, medical education and higher education administration, which includes positions at Yale University, the University of Chicago and Brandeis University. The IPH co-directors are Tom Andriola, UCI vice chancellor for information, technology and data, who, before joining the university, was a global healthcare technology leader; and Leslie Thompson, PhD, UCI Donald Bren Professor of psychiatry & human behavior and neurobiology & behavior, a nationally recognized researcher utilizing precision health approaches to understand neurodegenerative diseases.

Why is IPH important?

Our mission is to advance society by fostering health. Of course, we will improve the lives of those in Orange County and those referred to us from around the world. But we will also impact the state, the nation and the world by sharing our capabilities and victories. Goldstein calls the Institute for Precision Health “the most important step that we will take in this generation to improve health and well-being.”

UCI is creating a future in which diagnosis, treatment and health maintenance are based on an individual’s genetic makeup, gut microbiomes, diet, demographics, environment and data collected by the patient. We will champion this strategy because the new approach reorganizes how healthcare works, putting the patient at the center and in control.

An important aspect of IPH is that this new model works for everyone, not just the wealthy or those with private health insurance. We call this “deployable health equity,” because it provides practical solutions to redress health inequities through access to high-quality prevention and healthcare services.

This approach makes it easy to improve operational efficiency to decrease medical expenses, to judge if the cost of a treatment is validated by its utility to patients, and to permit large-scale evaluation of medications and devices after they come to market to confirm their effectiveness.

IPH is leading a healthcare revolution to empower patients, decrease costs, confront health inequities, and impartially judge the effectiveness of medications and devices.

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