Secure and intelligent use of patient data

Six Helmholtz institutes to jointly research how patient data can be processed securely and efficiently in the future

The focus will be on the well-being of patients and protection of their privacy. The new Helmholtz Medical Security, Privacy and AI Research Center (HMSP) brings together researchers from the fields of IT security, data protection, artificial intelligence and medicine. Together they will develop solutions for individualised medicine, among other projects.

© everythingpossible/Fotolia© everythingpossible/Fotolia Every day, researchers around the world collect patient data from blood samples, X-rays or gene analysis. They intend to use this data to develop new treatments for common illnesses such as dementia, cancer or infarctions. The secure and efficient evaluation of this steadily growing volume of biomedical data is a major challenge for researchers. Personalised medicine has been a key topic for a long time; it offers patients promising opportunities for new, precisely customised treatment methods.

In addition, it is a fast-growing market, driven by the rapid developments in artificial intelligence (AI). This means personalised medicine is an important factor for Germany as a centre of business. In order to utilise these opportunities, secure handling of necessary patient data must be ensured. This is what the HMSP is working on.

“Digitalisation in medicine offers enormous opportunities. But it also requires trust. Is my data secure? This is what people ask themselves when it comes to highly sensitive data such as medical results. If we want to make use of the opportunities offered by personalised medicine, we need to ensure the confidentiality of data. At the Helmholtz Medical Security, Privacy and AI Research Center, experts in the fields of computer science and medicine will work on developing secure applications for personalised medicine,” says Federal Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek. The government finances 90 per cent of the Helmholtz Association.

“Collecting, analysing and developing these vast amounts of medical data provides researchers with unprecedented insights and opens new doors. To do this in a trustworthy, secure and efficient manner requires completely new methods and cutting-edge interdisciplinary research,” explains Professor Michael Backes, Founding Director of the CISPA – Helmholtz Center for Information Security and spokesperson for the HMSP. Thanks to innovative methods developed at CISPA, efficient analysis and processing of encrypted patient data should be possible in the future. “On the one hand, we are ensuring the privacy of this highly sensitive information, and on the other, providing researchers with essential access to data for the development of personalised medicine,” emphasises Prof Backes.
Since Autumn 2018, the CISPA has been collaborating with the scientists at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) within the framework of the HMSP. Four more Helmholtz institutes have since joined them: the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI), the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) and the Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health (HMGU).

“The digitalisation of medicine offers enormous potential, but at the same time also demands reliable standards for secure handling of patient data. At the HMSP, we are jointly developing solutions that will directly benefit our research in the area of mobile health as well as our new Centre for individualised infection Medicine (CiiM),” says Prof Dirk Heinz, Scientific Director of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig.

Find more information here: