UMBC and UMB are joining forces to protect and probe medical data - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Aug. 12, 2019 4:07 pm

UMBC and UMB are joining forces to protect and probe medical data

University of Maryland, Baltimore County is bringing expertise in cybersecurity, machine learning and AI to the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research.
Officials from UMB and UMBC sign an MOU on the new collaboration.

Officials from UMB and UMBC sign an MOU on the new collaboration.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

When developing new technology, how to secure the product and data is becoming an increasingly important part of the equation.

That’s true for medical innovation at the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR), which looks to bring faculty together to improve the processes and capabilities needed to bring research from the lab and into patient care.

The focus of innovation has always been on building technology and getting it to work — “now we always think about cybersecurity as part of that,” said ICTR Director Dr. Stephen Davis. “That is part of the project, whether it’s a clinical project or a research project.”

With a new partnership, UMB is looking to add increased expertise in this area from another of the University System of Maryland’s largest schools in the Baltimore area.

On Monday, officials met at the University of Maryland Medical Center to sign a memorandum of understanding that adds expertise from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in cybersecurity, as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning to ICTR’s Informatics Core.

The partnership was characterized as a “two-way street.” UMBC has technical expertise in cybersecurity and data sciences. For its part, UMB has health expertise, as it’s the home of University of Maryland’s schools of medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and nursing.

“UMBC will offer great expertise to our faculty when it comes to informatics and cybersecurity, so our faculty can access the UMBC expertise,” said Dr. Bruce Jarrell, executive VP and provost/dean of the UMB Graduate School. “It also allows UMBC faculty to access the UMB faculty who have great expertise in [the medical field] — pharmacy, nursing, dentistry.”

When it comes to cybersecurity, the areas of focus include securing and uncovering potential cybersecurity risks in medical devices, systems, as well as protecting health records and medical data.

Along with strengthening the defenses required to protect systems, UMBC VP for Research Karl Steiner said the focus on AI and machine learning will add research value for “scientific offense,” as well. There’s an opportunity to dig into the data and apply techniques like deep learning or natural language processing that can in turn lead to new opportunities for advancement.

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“It allows us to use the very broad data that we gather in delivering health care and ask research questions that perhaps we didn’t ask in the past that will allow us to improve patient safety and advance on progress on cures,” Jarrell said, adding that the resources can be applied to any type of disease that affects humans.

The project has been in development over the past year and a half, and UMBC Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Tim Oates is leading outreach on the effort within that university.

It’s part of a broader effort among universities in the region focused around clinical and translational research. UMB’s ICTR is a partner on a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health that was secured by Johns Hopkins University to support a Baltimore hub. It’s one of a network of 60 across the country. Davis said UMB and UMBC believe that the cybersecurity, machine learning and AI can become an area of distinction.

UMB and UMBC have worked together on multiple shared graduate and research programs over the last decade.

“This is a very important next step in our relationship,” said UMBC Provost Philip Rous.

The university leaders underscored the importance of bringing together experts from different backgrounds. Rous said it was a “beautiful example” of how interdisciplinary research can work.

“When it really works in a genuine and authentic fashion,” he said, the key is “to identify a fundamental issue, problem or research area that we want to investigate and then bring together those experts to work together on those issues.”

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