Health City and its partners have been working on the Synthetic Data project since last fall — which it says is the first of its kind in Canada. Merck Canada's engagement also marks the first time a multinational corporation has invested in a synthetic data project in Alberta.
Synthetic data is information that is artificially generated using algorithms. Synthetic databases don't use real patient health information, which Health City CEO Reg Joseph said is important because these databases can be shared freely among innovators and researchers without raising patient privacy concerns.
"Before we engaged the project with Merck Canada, we actually launched an academic version of the project. We were able to demonstrate that we could create a synthetic database, prove that it's useful and that the data was safe," Joseph told Taproot.
"Positioning Edmonton as sort of the first mover on this is interesting because it lends itself now towards more industrial relationships in the health sector if we can be one of the first jurisdictions to demonstrate how to use data safely in this kind of environment."
The project is a collaboration between Health City, the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, the Insitute of Health Economics (IHE), Alberta Innovates, and Replica Analytics.