For researchers looking to conduct studies on how genes, lifestyle and environment may influence health and disease, access to tens of thousands of samples is only a few clicks away.

The Partners Biobank, a trove of health information and biospecimens from over 80,000 patients from BWH, MGH and other hospitals and practices across Partners HealthCare, provides a rich resource of high-quality, consented samples for BWH investigators. The Biobank facility houses more than 60,000 DNA, serum and plasma samples, and the Biobank Portal contains genomic data, validated disease phenotype information and survey data on lifestyle, behavior, environment and family history.

Investigators can use this information, which is free to scientists at Partners Healthcare, to explore the relationships between medications, diagnoses, laboratory test results, reported side effects and patient outcomes. Already, researchers have used the Biobank to pursue research projects related to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, psychiatric disorders, pain therapy, asthma and more. Researchers can also use the data to recruit targeted patient populations for clinical trials with the goal of developing personalized medicine.

“The Biobank offers a rich, centralized resource that will allow our researchers to be competitive, and we encourage all of our investigators to take advantage of it,” said Jacqueline Slavik, PhD, executive director of the Brigham Research Institute.

And many already have. Using the Biobank data, BWH researchers are developing tools to match patient genomes with tailored medications for neurodegenerative disorders, rheumatic disease and lupus. They’ve also refined tools to expand the Biobank data and its usefulness, such as electronic consent for faster recruitment and online tools for querying and requesting data. Population scientist Elizabeth Karlson, MD, who leads the Rheumatic Disease Epidemiology Group in the Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy, is also using a natural language processing algorithm that extracts information from doctor’s notes in electronic health records.

“Having the electronic tools at researchers’ fingertips to query specific patient populations and define diseases and study outcomes is really tremendous,” said Karlson.

In September, Partners Healthcare will host a competition to develop an artificial intelligence that can mine Partners Biobank patient data and predict disease states based on electronic health record information. Fifty teams from across the U.S. will compete to win prizes and prestige while making strides in diagnostic medicine.

At the beginning of the competition, five disease states of interest will be revealed to the researchers, who will be asked to identify them among the more than 80,000 Biobank participants. Competitors will also search the Biobank data for new insights about each disease state, such as novel predictors of onset and severity.

Experts in medicine, machine learning and health informatics will judge the submissions based on clinical usefulness. Winners will be announced on Dec. 10 and honored at the 2019 World Medical Innovation Forum, which will focus on artificial intelligence and its link to clinical care. Researchers will gain insights by sharing these novel computational tools, further advancing the mission of the Partners Biobank and demonstrating how electronic health care data can deepen our understanding of disease.

The Partners Biobank is currently recruiting participants to provide health information and samples. To learn more about Partners HealthCare Biobank, visit the website, email, or call 617-525-6700. Information about the World Medical Innovation Forum can be found here. Biobank data may be accessed in the Biobank Portal. For more information, click here  or email