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Informatica announced that it has struck a deal with France’s major health research agency to help organize and manage its data. This partnership is emblematic of how critical data has become in the fight against COVID-19 and in health care more broadly.

The Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (Inserm) announced a wide-ranging partnership with Informatica that aims to transform the way Inserm’s 15,000 researchers and engineers work by making it easier for them to access the organization’s vast medical data. According to Informatica chief product officer Jitesh Ghai, this is a challenge most large enterprises face, but the global pandemic has lent even greater urgency to digital transformation efforts at health-related organizations.

To solve this problem, Informatica has developed artificial intelligence to automate the sorting and cleaning of data and shape it into formats people with little technical knowledge can leverage.

“The scale and growth of data volume and types are mandating automation of data management,” Ghai said. “And what we’re bringing is AI-powered data management. What we’re ultimately doing is democratizing data access across Inserm by reducing the friction to using it.”

Informatica does this by pulling data scattered across the thousands of applications large organizations use, some cloud-based and others in legacy systems. Each of these data silos may have its own labeling and index system, and employees in other departments may be clueless about this data’s existence.

Using its algorithms, Informatica can catalog and index all this data to give each dataset more context.

“We’re leveraging AI and ML to apply it to the metadata data that describes the data so we can auto-curate and auto-tag to make it easier to search,” Ghai said.

Once that cataloging happens, Informatica presents a simple dashboard where researchers can order datasets, not unlike shopping for items on Amazon. Ghai said this reflects how the desire to consume, analyze, and process data has expanded beyond data specialists to average users.

“That’s the last mile of what I would call democratizing the data,”  Ghai said. “We enable everyone from non-technical users to deeply technical data users to access various curated datasets. You can literally put datasets into a shopping cart and it will give you AI and ML-based recommendations such as: If you use that data then you might want this dataset.”

The COVID-19 fight

In the case of Inserm, gaining such efficiencies has become critical. For instance, Inserm is managing a COVID-19 vaccine trial involving 25,000 people.

“We are intelligently matching patient information and everything about the patient — like the genetics of the patient, trial details, the specific vaccines that are part of the trial, other pertinent details — to help with the vaccination and drug development efforts of Inserm, as well as other life sciences organizations,” Ghai said.

Ghai said Informatica has seen a surge in demand from the health sector. Informatica now works with the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Mayo Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic, as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FSA).

For the FDA, Informatica helps provide more visibility into the drug supply chain, drug data, and details about the drugs.

“The common problem within organizations is this data is in silos,” Ghai said. “We help the FDA break down those silos so that when you are speaking about a particular drug, you know all of the various chemicals that go into the drug [and] you have various details on the supply chain that supports the assembly and manufacturing of the drug and the facilities where that drug is manufactured in terms of things like climate and temperature control.”

Informatica is also working with an undisclosed U.S. organization based on the East Coast to manage COVID-19 contract tracing efforts.

“We are helping them access patient statistics, search forecasts, and demand for ventilators,” Ghai said. “We’re helping them build a consolidated list of all folks that have had COVID-19 in terms of their locations, their home addresses, and through that, enabling contact tracing programs. This creates a report that’s being generated on a daily basis for the governor of the state.”

Ghai said it has been gratifying to make organizations more fact-based and data-driven. And he hopes one silver lining of the pandemic is a continuation of the acceleration toward digital transformation and improved data management that Informatica saw last year.

“It’s remarkable to see the elevation of data in 2020,” he said. “Nobody feels comfortable going with their gut anymore. Everybody wants data, everybody wants fact-based decisions. Everybody wants resiliency and agility in their systems, their processes, and their data. A roadmap that was multi-year is now being executed in a matter of months. Frankly, that is extremely exciting for us.”

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