About American Heart Association
The American Heart Association (AHA) is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – America’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country.
The AHA Precision Medicine Platform
The American Heart Association ambition is to vastly improve patient outcomes by providing faster access to data, state-of-the-art tools, technologies and innovations that enable sharing and discovery. The American Heart Association Precision Medicine Platform is designed to implement that vision by including a vast array of curated, rich, and distributed datasets, that are centrally accessed, searched, analyzed and shared by researchers, and securely managed in the Cloud.
The AHA Precision Medicine platform enables researchers and clinicians to aggregate and analyze a rich breadth and depth of data including longitudinal cohorts, population studies, clinical data registries, consumer generated data proteomic, genomic, and gene expression data. The AHA Precision Medicine Platform opens data and tools to all and turn the attention to a community effort in the field of cardiovascular and stroke science to accelerate solutions that positively impact millions of lives. The company planned to eventually eliminate their data center presence for their backup solution once their migration to the AWS Cloud was complete.
Big ideas come with big challenges, and the scope of the American Heart Association Platform is no exception. To grasp the challenge, it is important to understand that medical research data is far-reaching and plentiful. There are thousands of people, institutions, and businesses that research, analyze and draw conclusions based on the data they curate. Much of the research and data is high quality, valuable and has great integrity. However, there is no single meeting place, or market place, where the research is housed and easily searchable. Therefore, researchers spend much of their time searching various datasets looking for specific information and often end up duplicating the efforts of other researchers. Cumulatively, this results in substantial loss of time, money and effort.
One of the primary reasons for this challenge is that there are very few standards for curating, reporting, and managing the vast amounts of research data. The result is disparate research databases and systems that contain valuable but hard to find information. Therefore, the American Heart Association set out to solve this problem. In doing so, they created a Platform with the following:
1. Access to rich and varied sources of data;
2. Visibility and search tools to the datasets;
3. Data security, scale, and collaboration
Expert Collaboration Required
When American Heart Association set out to implement their innovative Precision Medicine Platform, they did so with an understanding that the IT infrastructure businesses that they would collaborate with would be instrumental in helping them achieve success. Thus, AHA chose REAN Cloud (“REAN”), an AWS Premier Consulting Partner with DevOps Competency and Migration Competency, for their expertise in helping businesses migrate and operate in the AWS Cloud. They also selected Kass-Hout Consulting for their domain knowledge and expertise in precision medicine and consumerism.
This opportunity is exciting because of the cutting-edge big data and science technology at hand, but also because the American Heart Association is on the front lines of saving people’s lives, ensuring the vital role for this project. Building a robust infrastructure for the Precision Medicine Platform became the primary goal of the experts at the American Heart Association, REAN Cloud, AWS and Kass-Hout Consulting.
The Components of the AHA Platform
The Platform was designed with several primary operational stages- including:
Data Collection – Data is uploaded to the Platform and stored in the discovery portal. A ‘white-glove’ process is established with the data provider to ensure all data is ingested into the platform.
Harmonization – Data often comes in various formats and specifications. In the harmonization phase, REAN and the data provider work together to construct algorithms to transform the dataset into a consistent format and specification for the discovery portal.
Discovery – Once published, the harmonized datasets are available for search and discovery via the portal. An intricate searching and filtering capability allows researchers to find relevant datasets based on a wide variety of search criteria and data trends. The platform also unifies the process of requesting and gaining access to datasets by providing the ability to request access directly from the search page.
Custom Research Environment – Once a researcher has been granted access to a dataset, a custom environment is created in the AWS Cloud, providing a secure environment that includes a variety of popular data science toolsets. The researcher has an enhanced environment (data, tools and infrastructure) to work with.
REAN Cloud Solutions at Work on Amazon Web Services
To implement the components of the American Heart Association Platform, the project was designed with several implementation phases and a combination of AWS Cloud Services along with REAN Cloud developed solutions with several open source integrations to accomplish the mission:
- First, the REAN Cloud team created a secure AWS virtual private cloud environment using the REAN DevOps Platform.
- Used REAN Deploy to implement a well-architected, secure 7-layer Virtual Private Cloud, which includes subnets for public and private internet traffic, internal and external load balancers, web, application, and database layers and a management layer. It starts with the Sophos UTM instance, which is used for VPN, next-gen firewall and network address translation.
- REAN Deploy and REAN TestGate along with a Jenkins client, Chef server, and NESSUS scanning to build out and test the security of the environment.
- The REAN Team deployed REAN Radar solution to monitor and dashboard the data movement and status at all times.
- Second, the data platform was constructed within the secure VPC. Jupyter Notebook was implemented to write code that allows for data transformation and calibrates code to perform the copious volume of transformations and negotiations.
- Amazon Elastic MapReduce (EMR) was used so that calculations could be farmed out and executed simultaneously throughout immense datasets to enable discovery of trends.
- Finally, REAN implemented Data Science Tools to make the aggregate data available in a consistent format.
- AWS ElasticSearch Service allows American Heart Association to collect, visualize and gain insight into datasets.
- The REAN team created a highly-customized Kibana solution to provide a powerful and scalable search and discovery tool for the user.
- The underlying infrastructure was designed and architected to be HIPPA compliant with controls for additional scalability for adoption of FEDRAMP and FISMA controls downstream.
- REAN facilitated the environment to create a unique and automated pipeline which enables a customized research and AWS Workspace environment. This solution provides researchers to have their own private cloud environment and custom pipeline which not only facilitates their work, but enables for data to be supplemented by future researchers – compounding the value to the community.
Through the unique cloud-based infrastructure on AWS that REAN designed and engineered, The Precision Medicine Platform will enable increased collaboration among the research community. The result will be better accelerated discoveries for both heart disease and stroke patients. Additionally, the flexibility and agility the platform provides the research community also enables scientists to amalgamate research, identify trends and provide real time solutions based on empirical data.