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EBRAINS HealthDataCloud Tackling the Sensitive Data Challenge in Brain Research

The EBRAINS research infrastructure will add a new service for sensitive medical brain data to its offers for the scientific community – the EBRAINS HealthDataCloud. A multinational team of academic and industrial partners in the Human Brain Project is developing the privacy compliant service for medical brain data over the next two years. The project is coordinated by Europe’s largest University Hospital Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and funded with 1 million Euro.

Researchers need better solutions to share, store and process health data in the EU – a problem that became strikingly clear in the Covid-crisis. But new ways of managing such data are also extremely vital in the fight against brain diseases, which pose an ever-growing burden on healthcare systems in the aging European societies.

EBRAINS, the digital research infrastructure created by the Human Brain Project, offers a range of resources to support neuroscientists. With the HealthDataCloud the toolbox will now grow to provide a special service supporting scientists in doing research on human data containing personal information – including the data of patients.

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Data science for brain health

The benefits enabling large-scale analysis of hospital data can be vast: For prevalent diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, complex simulations of personalized computational brain models and AI-driven approaches could help to better understand the complexity behind these conditions. And for many of the rarer diseases of the brain, where often only few cases exist per hospital, increased data sharing could bring the first statistically valid analyses ever.

Solving the Privacy Challenge

Large data-science approaches to the brain, and to health in general, need to solve an important problem: All research needs to strictly protect privacy – and thus the freedom and rights of each individual, and comply with European GDPR rules (General Data Protection Regulation).

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To this end, EBRAINS HealthDataCloud will provide a GDPR-compliant, federated research data ecosystem that enables neuroscience research consortia across Europe and beyond to work with sensitive neuroscience data originating from human subjects, as well as defined routes for sharing of the data and results.

The foundation for the EBRAINS HealthDataCloud is the GDPR-compliant Virtual Research Environment (VRE) located at Charité in Berlin, which is compatible with the EBRAINS digital infrastructure and provides a secure and scalable data platform for multi-institutional research teams. The platform is an outcome of the EU project Virtual Brain Cloud that contributes to the implementation of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).

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The consortium is coordinated by Prof. Petra Ritter from the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH) and Charité´s Department of Neurology and Experimental Neurology and includes partners from research and industry in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Norway and Greece.

Enabling the integration of distributed health data sources and empowering scientists to model and simulate complex phenomena on interdisciplinary digital twins – while protecting the privacy of the data subjects and patients – will spawn a multiplicity of innovations that may spark breakthroughs towards solving grand challenges of our times such as dementia. After I had the opportunity to lead the implementation of Virtual Brain Simulation Services in EBRAINS during the past funding period, I am now very pleased to contribute to the further expansion of services together with an excellent team.”
Prof. Petra Ritter, coordinator of EBRAINS HealthDataCloud

“The HBP and EBRAINS are looking forward to working with the HealthDataCloud consortium to further enhance the research infrastructure into the domain of brain health data.”
Steven Vermeulen, HBP Director of Innovation and CIIO of EBRAINS AISBL

The Human Brain Project has set up a powerful neurodata ecosystem – EBRAINS. With the addition of HealthDataCloud, we grow further, providing powerful tools to clinical researchers. It is one of our contributions to the EU’s Health Data Space, which aims at the digital transformation of healthcare in Europe.”
Paweł Świeboda, HBP Director General and CEO of EBRAINS AISBL

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