The right treatment at the right time

Researcher: David Maslove, Queen’s University
Project title: Focus on Research and Clinical Evaluation (FoRCE): Powering Clinical Trials Research Through a Secure and Integrated Data Management Platform
Industry Partner: Indoc Research
Supported by: IBM Canada Ltd. SOSCIP, Ontario Centres of Excellence, NSERC

Digital Media Health

Working in the ICU means Dr. David Maslove often has just minutes to make a decision regarding what type of treatment or therapy his critically ill patients will receive.

To do this, many different types of clinical data are collected, such as electrocardiograms, vital signs, lab tests, x-rays and many more. Most data are recorded both in paper charts and electronic medical records and some, such as physiologic waveforms recorded in the ICU, are typically discarded, making it difficult to utilize for clinical trials and research.

Maslove, a clinician scientist with the Departments of Medicine and Critical Care Medicine at Queen’s University and Intensivist at Kingston General Hospital, is conducting research to better understand the role big data can play in developing efficient, tailored treatment for critically ill patients. His goal is to use the data collected to help inform which patients could most benefit from different types of treatments, integrating research with real-time treatment.

The inspiration for his SOSCIP-supported research project was born out of frustration.

“One of my mentors always told me to do research on things that bothered me. To stare at the monitors with my patients in the ICU and see all this data streaming by and wondering if there is something I could be learning from it really motivated me to see what we could discover by bringing all the data together.”

With support from SOSCIP, Ontario Centres of Excellence, NSERC and Indoc Research through the R&D Smart Computing R&D Challenge, Maslove gained access to SOSCIP’s advanced computing platforms, particularly the Large Memory System, to build what he describes as “a living, breathing database of critical illness physiology.”

“We’re trying to leverage the quantities of data that are generated in the ICU and use that to power innovative clinical research. Bringing all the data together in a unified data structure would allow us to conduct more sophisticated inquiries in the setting of a clinical trial.”

Maslove’s industry partner is Indoc Research, a federally incorporated not-for-profit dedicated to driving scientific innovation and research excellence through the provision of comprehensive bioinformatics and molecular research solutions.

Although the team is just getting started, he credits the support from these partners with allowing him to focus on the research.

“One of the challenges with these sorts of projects is securing the computational resources needed. It’s hugely rewarding to know that resource is there and we can focus on the research.”

One of the benefits of SOSCIP’s programs is that it provides support and unique training for graduate students who aspire to become data scientists. The next step is to find a post-doctoral student that possesses both a computer science and medical background.

“You can always find a computer scientist and a doctor and have them talk to each other but they may not speak the same language. Someone who is fluent in both fields is in a much stronger position to find novel and innovative solutions to problems that might not occur to the person working in either domain alone,” explained Maslove.

The potential impact of the research could be significant, reducing unnecessary duplication of data that is so often required for researchers conducting clinical trials. Making more efficient use of resource allocation, the project will enable seamless and secure integration of research findings into clinical practice, which is especially crucial in an ICU setting where the best course of treatment needs to be determined within minutes.

In the long-term, Maslove’s research could support the development of software that is adopted more broadly, including outside of the ICU, to support and encourage sharing of data knowledge that could jointly inform future treatment and research trials simultaneously, without the need to duplicate data collection.

The key to advancing critical care research is to recognize that all critically ill patients are different in their own way. Collecting and analyzing a lot of data will allow us to highlight those distinctions and eventually tailor therapies so that each patient gets the right treatment at the right time.  This is an important step towards the vision of personalized medicine,” said Maslove.


SOSCIP is a research and development consortium that pairs academic and industry researchers with advanced computing tools to fuel Canadian innovation.  SOSCIP supports projects that have the potential to have a considerable impact on the lives of Canadians, within areas such as water, cities, health and cybersecurity. The consortium includes 15 of Ontario’s most research-intensive academic institutions as well as Ontario Centres of Excellence and the IBM Canada Research and Development Centre.