Multi-party trusted research environment federation: Establishing infrastructure for secure analysis across different clinical-genomic datasets

A DARE UK Sprint Exemplar Project

Trusted research environments (TREs) are secure spaces for researchers to access and analyse sensitive data. They help prevent unauthorised access and/or re-identification of individuals from de-identified data.

Many research institutions and data providers have their own TREs, but they cannot currently ’talk’ to other TREs. The ability for TREs to talk is known as federation. Even where researchers are allowed to use data held in two separate TREs, analysing them together would still require their combination within a single TRE. This is challenging and costly with large datasets like whole genome sequences and can delay new discoveries.

This project aims to create a UK first demonstration of federation of genomic data by bridging the TREs of the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre and Genomics England. Both contain rich, secure, governed sources of fully consented clinical-genomic data from patients. After querying the data within the two separate TREs to find individuals with certain characteristics, a joint analysis will be run within both environments, and the results combined in a separate secure cloud environment. This means that no original data will move, only results.

New standards for federated TRE systems will be developed and shared. Learning from the project will unlock unprecedented possibilities for collaborations with clinical-genomic data across the UK Research and Innovation research councils, potentially leading to new discoveries with long-term public benefit.

Principal investigator: Professor Serena Nik-Zainal, University of Cambridge

Project partners: NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), University of Cambridge, Lifebit, Cambridge University Health Partners, Eastern AHSN (Academic Health Science Network), and Genomics England

Funded amount: £200,127

Learn more about the project from Principal Investigator, Professor Serena Nik-Zainal, in the video below.

Find out more about DARE UK’s programme of Sprint Exemplar Projects.