Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Biomedical Informatics Support

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1. Introduction


Biomedical Informatics has become a technology essential to clinical and translational research and critical to the patient care mission of an academic medical center of the 21st century. This is due to:

  • the widespread implementation of clinical information systems by many medical centers and clinics
  • the need to acquire and integrate data from multiple sources and modalities in translational, clinical, and population studies
  • the explosion in the amount of high-throughput genomics, transcriptomics, epigenomics, proteomics, metabolonomics, cellomics, and other "omics" data being generated
  • the increasing use of highly data-intensive, structural and functional imaging studies in clinical research and in pre-clinical animal studies
  • the need to construct customized databases and informatics solutions for individual disease management applications
  • the need to process and transmit large amounts of information and data to a large number of users in diverse settings when translating clinical research to the practice setting

To meet these challenges, the Houston Methodist Biomedical Informatics Support Core focuses on the development and integration of many different informatics capabilities at Methodist. Supported with a variety of software and hardware and expertise in bioinformatics, database development, image analysis, and clinical informatics, the core facilitates clinical and translational research by providing:

  • consultation on informatics needs for projects and grant proposals
  • database design and implementation
  • web and database programming
  • assistance and direction on image and data acquisition, processing, analysis, retrieval, and management
  • genomic, transcriptomic, epigenomic, proteomic, metabolomic, clinic, and image data analysis
  • customized informatics tools and databases
  • cluster computing solutions
  • data mining and outcome studies

 

Biomedical Informatics Contact

Dr. Tian Ding
Phone: 713-441-7266
tding@houstonmethodist.org 

 

2. Protocol of Support

Before Consulting.Obtaining advice early in a project can often greatly improve the chances of the study, successfully meeting its objectives. Nothing is more frustrating than learning after the fact that your data and their supporting informatics infrastructure are inadequate, or that your time and resources were wasted by gathering more data than necessary. We strongly recommend that you seek our advice during the design phase of your research, on data collection, database design and sample-survey planning before gathering your data. Individuals interested in initiating a consultation are requested to download and fill out our simple "Houston Methodist Biomedical Informatics Support - Service Request Form (MBIS-SRF)", and then set up an initial meeting with the HMBIS. For resident/fellow/student projects, the faculty mentor is also encouraged to attend this initial meeting.

What should I bring to the first meeting? This form will help us understand and identify among other things (i) the PI or the Requester of the service; (ii) a brief description of the context and the purpose of your project (typically: NIH-style research project title, research program, specific aims, study design; current status; deadlines; source and limitations of funding; intended publication/reprint or document; (iii) and a brief description of your request: type of data, type of tasks to perform, the hypotheses you would like to test and the research questions you would like to answer. It is recommended that this information be prepared carefully to help us review the research needs and further study design issues, estimate the workload, and plan a realistic timetable. Additionally, copies of articles or earlier work on similar topics in your discipline would also be helpful. If you are seeking advice on data analysis or report writing after the fact, then also bring with you a description of the data gathering protocol, and any normalization procedure or transformation applied, etc.... Don't forget the file containing the data and the results of the analysis already performed.

Obtaining the Support Service. We do not offer walk-in or telephone service. Service is by appointment only. Based on the information you provide, the director of the support service at HMBIS will assign a priority to your project. Typically, you will be contacted within 24 hours. In case of urgency, you may directly contact Dr. Tian Ding. 

3. Pricing and Grant policy

Typically, funding support is required via hourly rates, or arranged as a percent effort of sponsored research. However, support free of charge may apply to your project under strict and restricted conditions as follows: The initial consulting session (~ of up to one hour) is available at no charge in any case.

Research Institute. As part of the Research Institute´s commitment to its research mission and its partial support of this service certain general infrastructure projects may receive limited support free of charge when the consultation and support service to the projects are identified as being minimal in terms of effort or computational resources. Support for such projects will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the HMBIS. In the case of grant proposals, all consulting associated with the grant proposal may also be free of charge as detailed below.

Hourly fees. For projects that do not lead to grant applications and that are well-defined and limited in scope, an hourly charge will be applied. The HMBIS bills for the actual faculty/programmer/admonition time. The charging is done by billing a grant or an account through the Bioinformatics Core. Upon agreement of the present policy, the Principal Investigator (PI) is invited to fill out and sign "Houston Methodist Biomedical Informatics Support - Service Contract Form (HMBIS-SCF)", where an account number to be charged is to be provided, and where written description of work, time-schedule for completion, and estimated costs agreed upon are specified. Please log into iLab for more information and to schedule resources.   

Sponsored Research. Users of the HMBIS service who engage in sponsored research are encouraged to include informatics consulting and support in research proposals. Informatics thinking and infrastructure contribute greatly to the success of research proposals. At many granting agencies, the quality of informatics planning and support can tip the balance in favor of funding. If a substantial role for informatics is proposed, we will gladly join in your proposal. All scientific consulting associated with the grant proposal, including assistance in proposal writing, informatics design and planning, and subsequent analyses are provided without charge as long as the HMBIS personnel is identified as collaborating investigators and appropriate funding for the MBIS is included in the grant´s budget. This can take the form of a direct-cost line item, or full or partial funding of a faculty member's salary.

Computing Resources. Two high performance computer clusters (64-core 64bit Windows server 2003 computer cluster and 112-core Linux server cluster), 60 TByte storage network, and variety of applications, web, database servers operated by us at HMBIS are available for consulting and research purposes. Please check our IT resource pages at http://cbi-022/it/facility.html for the available computing resources, and http://cbi-022/it/Softwarelist.htm for the available server software at HMBIS.

Authorship policy. Co-authorship on scientific articles is generally expected on studies where substantive input on design/analysis or computational resources is provided. It is our policy not to forego funding in return for co-authorship.