UL1 - Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute - Informatics Core


Sponsoring Agency
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences


The Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) was formed in 2007 to accelerate the impact of biomedical research on health. Penn State has almost $1 billion in research expenditures, and its College of Medicine (CoM) and Penn State Health system serve about 2.0 million people in largely rural regions of central PA. Penn State is the state’s land-grant university, a research institution with a strong culture of interdisciplinary team science and a health system committed to the people and communities in our area. We have developed a growing outreach network and partnerships to better understand the communities’ needs, address barriers to prevention and treatment, and test novel approaches to health concerns across the lifespan and translational spectrum. As a learning organization, we practice continuous evaluation and data-driven decision-making to achieve continuous quality improvement. Our vision is to be the cornerstone of CTS throughout Penn State and a leader in advancing rural CTS.

Informatics Core

The overarching goals of Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s (CTSI) Informatics Core are to: 1) support a state-of-the-art, secure and user-friendly data infrastructure; 2) provide cutting-edge data science tools, methods and expertise; and 3) enhance our Information Commons’ capacity to advance informatics education and expertise through a collaborative culture and data-driven quality improvement. To date, the Core has substantially advanced standardization, integration and governance on disparate data sets, including electronic medical records, outcomes, environmental and social determinants, behavior, genetics, insurance claims, and public health surveillance information. The Core supports multiple common data models and institutional standard analyses files for clinical cohorts. To meet our growing clinical research data needs, our CTSI has secured additional resources to build rapid extract-transform-load (ETL) capability and to leverage informatics expertise across the University. These efforts are being tracked to assess whether and how they facilitate translational research across disciplines and domains. In addition, we monitor activities to optimize data quality, data governance, cybersecurity regulation compliance, privacy protection and research ethics. In data sciences, we develop and disseminate novel analytical tools and methodologies and track the success of our efforts to improve access to de-identified patient data for cohort query analyses. The Informatics Core supports i2b2, TriNetX, PCORnet, and Accrual to Clinical Trials (ACT). Additionally, we promote policy compliant integrative analyses of disparate sources of health data including traditional clinical and claims data, as well as biomedical, genomic, molecular, geospatial, environmental, socioeconomic, sensor- and novel patient-generated data for predictive and causal modeling of health outcomes. Dr. Vasant Honavar, Co-Lead of the Informatics Core, will oversee our advanced informatics efforts as part of the Penn State Digital Collaboratory for Precision Health Research (DCPHR). The power of data and innovative analytics will only be fully realized by a culture of inquiry and collaboration that engages highly motivated and well-trained translational scientists. Our Information Commons supports ongoing training to share knowledge, data and methods in a secure HIPAA compliant manner and will be strengthened by the creation of a new Division of Clinical Informatics Research at the College of Medicine (CoM). The Informatics Core provides educational opportunities and materials to researchers for the several self-service data query and storage tools, ongoing research programs, and clinical research networks and their respective data models offered by CTSI. We have an established research data re-use policy and processes to encourage Penn State researchers to take advantage of large-scale clinical data sets that already exist. Finally, we will collaborate with other CTSI Cores and efforts across the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Consortium to advance clinical and translational research.