By Allison Proffitt
November 4, 2013 | The past few weeks tranSMART has launched its membership program and announced a joint cloud computing initiative with BT. It’s a busy season for non-profit.
TranSMART was born at Johnson & Johnson
in June 2009 under the leadership of Eric Perakslis before being reincarnated in 2010 as a non-profit Foundation offering an open-source knowledge management platform for scientists to share their pre-competitive data.
The Foundation’s role is to keep the code base up to date and ensure that new functionality is being brought in, explained Brian Athey, the Foundation co-CEO. TranSMART is now global. Athey reports tranSMART instances in the U.S., Europe, and about a dozen in Japan. “It’s becoming a worldwide phenomenon.”
The updates are coming quickly. In September, the Foundation released version 1.1
of the software, eliminating the need for users to purchase any commercial components. Athey says that version 1.2 is already in the works, and expects the update to be released next year.
The membership program is a logical outgrowth of the Foundations goals, says Athey.
“At its core, the tranSMART Foundation is a member-, community-driven organization.” The membership program has been designed to provide an ecosystem for partners that are developing, delivering, hosting, supporting, and using the tranSMART open source platform for translational medicine research. The membership program will also provide the Foundation with sustainability in its mission to mobilize and enable the tranSMART community around the content and codebase.
Early interest has been high, Athey says. A prospective member meeting held in the summer included a “nice mix” of pharmaceutical companies, biotechs, universities, vendor companies, computing companies, and non-profits. TranSMART says there are currently more than 25 organizations are participating in creating a vibrant, active and capable ecosystem.
The tranSMART Foundation Membership Program, Athey explained, will offer membership tiers based upon the level of commitment to the sustainability of the Foundation. The three levels include:
• Gold - recognizing an investment of at least $100,000 per year in the Foundation. Gold-level members can elect a representative from their company to the tranSMART Foundation board of directors and have a representative on all Foundation Working Groups.
• Silver - recognizing a minimum of a $50,000 annual investment with the ability to submit a representative to the pool of candidates to be elected to the Foundation's board of directors and have two representatives in the Foundation Working Groups.
• Bronze - recognizing a minimum annual investment of between $5,000-$20,000 with the ability to submit a representative to the pool of candidates to be elected to the Foundation's board of directors and can nominate one individual to one of the Foundation's Working Groups.
Working Groups that will include representatives from the Foundation membership will focus on the three key areas of the organization: Code, Content and Community. The Architecture Working Group will define the path forward for the tranSMART platform. The Scientific Advisory Group will focus on the content, specifically on key issues around the application and use of the platform for scientific and medical research. And, the Community Leadership Group will be responsible for the community aspect by creating, managing and disseminating the key messages of the tranSMART Foundation and community to ensure that the community continues to grow with the mission in mind.
“We’re having interest at all levels from gold through to bronze,” Athey says. The Foundation’s goal is to have 15-20 members formally signed on in time for the first board meeting in February.
Facilitating the growth of the Foundation and expanded interest is the recent partnership with BT. The tranSMART platform will be offered on the BT for Life Sciences cloud service to scientists in research hospitals, academic research institutions and life science research organizations globally, as well as third-party organizations.
“Teaming with the tranSMART Foundation is an important milestone for our life science ecosystem,” said Bas Burger, president, U.S. & Canada and Global Industry Verticals, BT Global Services in a statement. “The tranSMART Foundation is a great example of an organization that can help us to achieve our vision of contributing to a significant acceleration of the pace of drug discovery and development.”
BT will host a free demonstration instance of the tranSMART platform. “One can log on remotely or there will be instances of the tranSMART platform available in the BT Health showrooms in New York City… and London,” says Athey. The Foundation and BT Health are also discussing a “very nice corpus of electronic health record assets that have been very well curated and maintained by BT Health of the National Health Service,” Athey says. The dataset of 60 million records with two to eight years of longitudinal data could be made available by BT Health for demonstration and “perhaps downstream further use and access by tranSMART Foundation members.”
For now, tranSMART is already enabling several exciting projects. Athey lists several: The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation is working with GeneSpace and using tranSMART for some of their data management. The University of Michigan and the Brady Neurological Institute at Johns Hopkins are working together via tranSMART. In Europe, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is supporting about 35 clinical/translational research projects and the tranSMART codebase is being developed for those projects.
Many of the Foundation’s projects are in early days, but it’s exciting, says Athey. “There’s a lot of interest. There are many companies, not-for-profits, and academic institutions that are depending on tranSMART.”