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Center for Advanced Information Management

Research Summary

In 1983, just a few years after the Bayh-Dole Act gave universities nationwide a financial incentive for research, the New York State Office of Science Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR) started the Centers for Advanced Technology (CAT) Program to further promote the marketization of technology at the state level. Recently, Governor Paterson reaffirmed the State’s commitment to this goal by saying “we have to remember . . . that in terms of establishing an innovative economy, there is going to have to be a relationship between the innovations in New York and job creation in New York.” Well, the Center for Advanced Information Management (CAIM) at Columbia has created those relationships again and again. In fact, George Hripcsak, CAIM’s current Director, stated in a recent newsletter that during 2007-08, “CAIM reported to NYSTAR a total economic impact of $33.5 million or a return on investment to the state of 33:1. At the same time, we generated $2.6 million in matching funds from these companies.”

Companies seek out CAIM researchers for their expertise. The Center specializes in bringing cutting-edge information science to industry for product development and enhancement and has a breadth of experience in developing information technologies at the interface between biomedical and communications sciences. CAIM utilizes scientific, clinical, and engineering talent at Columbia University from several groups in the medical center and engineering school to provide companies with information-based expertise from its technology leaders.

And companies benefit from Columbia/CAIM expertise in many ways: industry co-funded grants, membership in Affiliates program, access to CUBIC (Columbia University Biomedical Informatics Consultants) specialists, and various CAIM events. Another useful mechanism, especially for initial conversations, is an informal round table discussion or seminar involving CAIM staff and company representatives to explore needs, expertise, areas of mutual interest, opportunities for third-party funding, etc.

The CAIM’s portfolio of technologies represents contributions from four main groups:

(1) Biomedical Informatics – deals with storage, retrieval, sharing, and optimal use of biomedical information, data, and knowledge for problem solving and decision making.
(2) Computer Science Department – studies theoretical and experimental aspects of information management and technology and has expertise in digital library technology, digital government systems, and novel visual/graphical interfaces for information management.
(3) Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (C2B2) – encompasses the Columbia Genome Center and the Center for Systems Biology and aims to catalyze research at the interface between biology and the computational and physical sciences.
(4) Biomedical Imaging group in the Biomedical Engineering Department – takes a broad approach, including image formation, qualitative analysis, evaluation and quantitative measures. Their studies aim at imaging structures at the molecular, cellular, tissue, and organ levels.

In addition, CAIM leverages complementary university infrastructure to support its service to NYS companies, including the technology transfer office, general counsel, and entrepreneurial center in the business school. Other offerings of CAIM include annual grants and design evaluation services.

Current Research Focus

The Center accepts applications annually from faculty researchers and supports projects that represent good science and engineering and have a promise of commercial success and partnership of company senior management. Illustrative projects are as follows:

VIRAT. A new grant application has been to study Video and Image Retrieval and Analysis Tool. It is directed by electrical engineer Shih-Fu Chang working with a small upstate company, Kitware (Clifton Park, NY). Kitware, Inc. recently received substantial funding from DARPA. The joint effort involves building a revolutionary video analyst workstation, and will leverage promising technologies in computer vision, video data indexing, and content-based retrieval.

HEIDI. A new grant application was approved recently for the project Healthy Elders Integrated Distance Interventions (HEIDI): Patient-Provider Information Coordination to Improve Self-Management in Aging Populations. The study is directed by Adam Wilcox (Biomedical Informatics) working with InterMDnet Corporation (NY, NY). The goal is better healthcare based on improved partnerships between physicians and informed, activated patients, using good information coordination between providers and patients. This is particularly critical for the elderly where the complexity of chronic diseases, and many medical decisions faced in later years, require a high level of communication and coordination.

In Machine Learning Algorithms and Applications to the Electric Power Grid, computer scientists from the Columbia Center for Computational Learning Systems help a major NYS electric power producer to more efficiently service their distribution networks, resulting in substantial savings in maintenance costs.

A relatively new company (Sense Networks) formed in NYS leverages Columbia computer scientist Tony Jebara’s expertise in machine learning algorithms to visualize data location and show similar people, places, and activity as networks. This modeling expertise helps the Company to offer advertising on mobile platforms to consumers as well as better financial analytics, such as real-time tracking of retail activity, consumer spending and tourism in several cities.

Research Projects

CAIM has worked with over 40 companies, including Aetna, ConEd, IBM, Pfizer, Verizon, Philips Research North America, NLP International, Blue Highway, Transcendent International, and Robotic Systems & Technologies.

The following awards were approved for 2009-10 CAIM Grants with matching industry funds:
Aetna InteliHealth e-Health Development and Evaluation. Industry partner: Aetna Health
Healthy Elders Integrated Distance Interventions (HEIDI): Patient-Provider Information Coordination to Improve Self-Management in Aging Populations. Industry partner: InterMDnet Corporation
Machine Learning Algorithms and Applications to the Electric Power Grid. Industry partner: Consolidated Edison
Video and Image Retrieval and Analysis Tool (VIRAT), Industry partner: Kitware, Inc.

Patents and Disclosures

VisionTrackerOne™ will be the first fully insertable imaging device offering hospitals and surgery centers a reliable robotic “point-and-shoot” digital camera technology with demonstrated superior depth and angle of vision and surgical functionality. The company, EndoRobotics, is targeting seven surgical procedures for its first product launch representing more than four million annual open surgeries and laparoscopic procedures with the latter totaling more than 1.5 million each year. VisionTrackerOne™ will enable a significant increase in number of minimally invasive surgeries performed in the U.S. and around the world. A patent has been granted (7,066,879) and 12 more are in process.

MedLEE (Medical Language Extraction and Encoding) is a text processor that extracts and structures clinical information from textual reports and translates the information to terms in a controlled vocabulary. Clinical information can then be accessed by further automated procedures. It has been used in radiology, discharge summaries, sign-out notes, pathology reports, electrocardiogram reports, and echocardiogram reports, and can readily be ported to other clinical domains. MedLEE is the only comprehensive and operational natural language processor (NLP) system formally shown to be as accurate as physicians in interpreting narrative medical records. MedLEE has been licensed for commercial use and further development by a new company, Natural Language Processing International. NLPI will license MedLEE to commercial and institutional users and undertake to improve, expand, and customize the software for clients with the assistance of Prof. Carol Friedman and her staff. US Patent No. 6,055,494.

WebCIS is a Web-based clinical information system used by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. At NYPH, WebCIS stores information from laboratory, radiology, pathology, other ancillary data; patient discharge summaries, demographics, registration data, insurance information; and patient lists. It is a clinical browser that displays information from many sources and supports up to 900 users/hour who can retrieve, sort, and aggregate data in several ways. WebCIS is copyrighted and available for licensing.

Funding Sources

The CAT program is funded by the NYSTAR, whose mission is to encourage collaboration between NYS academic research institutions and industry, to promote the commercial use of the state's academic-based technology and intellectual property, and to leverage State resources to attract federal grant support for its research programs. The purpose of NYSTAR’s investment in the CAT is to enhance its ability to contribute to economic growth in New York State.

Legislation authorizing the CAT program includes a requirement that companies benefiting from CAT assistance provide matching cash to support the work done on their behalf at academic institutions.

Contact Info

Center for Advanced Information Management
630 West 168th Street, PH15-1501
New York, NY 10032
Telephone: (212) 305-2944
Fax: (212) 305-0196