News from the BioCity Campus

Prof. Toralf Kirsten takes over the newly created professorship and department for Medical Data Science

Prof. Dr. Toralf Kirsten will be appointed to the new professorship for Medical Data Science jointly established by the Medical Faculty of the University of Leipzig and the University Hospital Leipzig on August 1.8.2021st, 2018. The computer scientist is also taking over the management of the newly created Medical Data Science department at the UKL. With the filling of the professorship, another important step is taken in the implementation of the goals of the nationwide Medical Informatics Initiative (MII), in which the UKL and the University of Leipzig have been involved with the SMITH consortium since XNUMX.

Digitization in medicine is a current buzzword that should be provided with concrete content and applications as soon as possible. The professorships for medical informatics planned at several locations in Germany should contribute to this. In Leipzig, Prof. Toralf Kirsten is now taking on this task and is beginning work in this exciting and promising field. The 49-year-old computer scientist can seamlessly continue his previous work, which has involved him with the project since 2018 SMITH, the Leipzig-based part of the nationwide Medical Informatics Initiative, connects. Bioinformatics and the application of database systems in the life sciences have been the focus of his scientific work for almost 20 years. After positions at the Leipzig University of Applied Sciences, the Center for Bioinformatics at the University of Leipzig, the University of Telecommunications in the trade fair city and most recently the Mittweida University of Applied Sciences, he now works at the Leipzig University Medical Center.

“In medicine, a great deal of data is generated every day from routine care. At a university hospital like the UKL, a large number of laboratory tests or imaging diagnostic tests with MRT or CT scans are carried out on patients with very different diseases,” says Prof. Kirsten, describing his new area of ​​responsibility. “However, this data cannot currently be used for research projects. The aim of our work is to process them in such a way that scientists can obtain important information for diagnosis and treatment.” So far, individual, very specific questions have been researched in medicine in studies. For this purpose, the data required for this are identified in advance and collected by examining specific patient groups.

In the future, thanks to the work of Prof. Kirsten and his colleagues, a kind of data pool with all available information could be created from which all existing data on a specific question can be quickly retrieved. "In this way, connections could be identified more quickly and easily and open questions answered," Prof. Kirsten is convinced.

When using patient data, the high standards of data protection in the healthcare sector must be observed. Anonymity must be preserved, and the data must not leave the place where they were collected for treatment purposes. “These are demanding requirements, and the implementation of which data integration centers, also here at the UKL,” says Kirsten. The task of his department is now to analyze the data that has been brought together in this way. For this purpose, suitable methods must first be developed and an infrastructure created that enables the collection and evaluation not only of Leipzig data, but ultimately of all data nationwide. In order to achieve this, Prof. Kisten and his colleagues from the SMITH consortium work together with all other locations of the medical informatics initiative. A current project is the "Personal Health Train" - a process that is intended to enable a step-by-step evaluation of large amounts of data on site by carrying out an interim evaluation at the various centers, the results of which are then transported to the next data storage location. "In this way, the individual patient data does not leave the centers where it is collected and required for treatment, but can be evaluated and processed in a pseudonymised form," explains Prof. Kirsten. In concrete terms, these are, for example, questions about the early detection of glaucoma and other eye diseases or the pattern recognition of rare ones leukodystrophies, which can be detected more quickly and treated better.

In order to anchor such methods even more firmly in medicine in the future, the University of Leipzig will be offering the Medical Data Science master's degree program starting in the winter semester, in which Prof. Kirsten is also involved. Scientists, but also doctors, are to be trained here to become experts in data collection and evaluation in order to be able to further advance the digitization of medicine for the benefit of patients.

"I'm really looking forward to my new task in this highly exciting field and I'm hoping for many network projects and application questions," says Prof. Toralf Kirsten, with a view to the development work that lies ahead of him. "Thanks to many existing projects, there is a very good basis in Leipzig for this, which we will now build on intensively."


background objects 

goal of Medical Informatics Initiative (MII) is the improvement of research opportunities and patient care through innovative IT solutions. These should enable the exchange and use of data from patient care, clinical and biomedical research across the borders of institutions and locations. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the MII with over 2021 million euros until 160. in the four consortia DIFUTUREHiGHmedMIRACUM and SMITH All university medicine facilities in Germany at over 30 locations work together with research institutions, companies, health insurance companies and patient representatives to develop the framework conditions so that research findings can reach patients directly. Data protection and data security have the highest priority.

Nine university hospitals and nine other partners from research and industry have joined forces in the Smart Medical Information Technology for Healthcare (SMITH) consortium. SMITH will be funded by the BMBF from 2018 to 2021 with a total funding volume of around 45 million.


Source: Press release University Hospital Leipzig from August 04.08.2021th, XNUMX

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