FOCIS Highlight: Using Big Data to Study Preterm Birth

Preterm birth, or delivery of an infant prior to 37 weeks of gestation, is a significant cause of infant morbidity and mortality. Globally, over 15 million babies are delivered prematurely each year, and over 1 million infant deaths annually are attributed to complications related to preterm birth. March of Dimes and its research partners are working tirelessly to change those statistics.

In the past, usage of big data has been limited in the field of preterm birth research. March of Dimes and its partners are making that a thing of the past. Through partnership with ImmPort and creation of the March of Dimes Database for Preterm Birth Research, over 8,000 molecular level measurements from 600+ participants are currently publically available to researchers around the world. This number continues to grow as new studies are added quarterly.

Dr. Marina Sirota, PhD, @msirota84, Assistant Professor for the Institute for Computational Health Sciences at UCSF, gave an informative talk at FOCIS 2019 about the possibilities the March of Dimes Database opens up for preterm birth research. Her talk, titled Enabling Precision Medicine in Neonatology: Leveraging Clinical and Omics Data to Study Preterm Birth, discussed the database and how researchers can leverage data to make breakthroughs in the field.

Marina discussed the diverse types of data available within the database, which includes CyTOF, ELISA, flow cytometry, arrays, gene expression and others. Additionally, data is curated by the ImmPort team prior to release, minimizing pre-work for researchers. This includes adoption of community standards, controlled vocabularies, and de-identification of data in alignment with HIPAA.

To learn more, check out the paper published in Scientific Data, “Enabling Precision Medicine in Neonatology, an Integrated Repository for Preterm Birth Research.”