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ISM to open clinical database

System will support local medical research

The Institute for Systems Medicine in Spokane could open a clinical data repository by the end of April, Chief Operating Officer Amy Johnson said Monday.

A second institute initiative, a tissue bank, may be ready by the fall of next year, she said.

Johnson said the data and tissue banks will become important assets supporting the University of Washington Medical School on the Riverpoint Campus, and associated medical, dental and health care research.

The lack of infrastructure, which would also include laboratories, has put off researchers who might otherwise consider relocating to Spokane, she said.

ISM Scientific Director Kenn Daratha said the data system will filter information from the Social Security Death Index through Inland Northwest Health Service records, allowing researchers to conduct mortality studies, for example, that do not compromise patient privacy.

He said the INHS records capture information from the Inland Northwest’s two dominant health care organizations, Providence Health Services and Community Health Services. Because relatively few patients go outside the area for care, he said, information about them is not lost, as it might be in areas where competing medical providers do not share records.

Researchers will also be able to access other large public health databases, Daratha said, adding that other health providers in the Inland Northwest may agree to participate in the future.

Johnson said security procedures and audits by the Spokane Institutional Review Board have been under way for several months. A final review is expected within the next three weeks, she said.

“We feel extremely comfortable there will not be any breaches,” Johnson said, noting that there will be only two points of access; Daratha’s office – he is studying chronic kidney disease – and a locked room in the ISM offices within the Sirti Technology Building.

Patients would opt out of the database – they would be included unless they said they didn’t want to be – and opt in to sharing tissue, she said.

The 25-member review board, which must approve all research on humans at Providence and CHS, is also assessing progress toward the tissue bank, she said, adding that the group would review all applications for tissue use.

“We’re not going to hand out tissue to anybody who wants it,” Johnson said.

She said ISM recently assumed responsibility for, but is not storing, tissue collected for a study of colon cancer.

ISM has been funded with a $675,000, two-year grant from Spokane County’s Health Sciences and Services Authority. That grant expires in September.

Johnson said ISM officials are preparing an application for additional funding, but how much has not yet been determined.

Revenue generated by the tissue bank and licensing and patent fees should enable ISM to be self-sustaining when the subsequent grant terminates, she said.

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