Much of medical data is “siloed.” Electronic health records are stored in one place, MRI data in another, data on brain waves are stored somewhere else, and so on. These stores of data do not communicate with one another or align information. Because of this, clinicians and researchers face a barrier to the overall evaluation of the brain—without the ability to compare all of the data, you cannot make fully informed conclusions about the human brain and disease treatment. In an effort to solve this problem, ‘I-BRAIN’ was formed. I-BRAIN consists of teams of experts in all areas of brain science—ranging from brain imaging to genomics—linked together by a common computer platform called ‘Intuition.’ Intuition brings together important clinical and scientific information on the human brain. What makes this platform even more unique is that Intuition links human brain samples removed as part of the surgical treatment for epilepsy housed at the University of Illinois NeuroRepository to computational data. This tissue bank, linked in 3-dimensional space to MRIs, EEGs, tissue samples, histology, genes, proteins, and clinical records, offers a new foundation for understanding epilepsy and will be instrumental in the development of new treatments for the disease. While initiated for epilepsy, I-BRAIN and Intuition are being applied to other disorders ranging from ALS to traumatic brain injury and to rare and orphan diseases to generate highly accurate, multimodal datasets. We are currently translating these data into new therapeutics, new imaging methods, and new data platforms with analytical tools. We are working with DPI to engage commercial partners to bring this ‘better,’ not ‘bigger’ data to fruition.
Dr. Loeb is a practicing neurologist, epileptologist and neuroscientist who currently holds the John S. Garvin Chair, Professor and Head of the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation. He received his A.B. in Chemistry, M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. After completed a residency in Neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, he joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School where he also had fellowship training in epilepsy at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital. Dr. Loeb conducted postdoctoral work in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School with Dr. Gerald Fischbach where he became interested in how understanding early neural development can teach us what goes wrong in human disease and suggest new treatments. This and other work focusing on translating basic discoveries into new treatments has resulted in high profile publications, federal and foundation grants support, and a number of patents, including one for a targeted drug that blocks neuregulin signaling and shows promise in degenerative disease that blocks neural inflammation, such as ALS and Alzheimer’s. His work in treating epilepsy patients led to a one-of-a-kind large-scale, systems biology project of human brain tissues that links the genes, molecular and cellular signals that underlie the abnormal electrical activities that characterize this common neurological disorder. Dr. Loeb is director of the University of Illinois NeuroRepository, co-director of biomedical informatics in UIC’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science, and Chief Clinical Strategist for the Sturge-Weber Foundation. To build on his scientific efforts and translate discoveries back to patients through public-private partnerships, he recently formed ‘I-BRAIN’ in close collaboration and with support from the Discovery Partners Institute.