Six months I AM frontier

30 motivated participants, 4 000 samples, 22 000 clinical tests, compiled in one secure data infrastructure

Since March 2019, VITO Health is conducting the I AM frontier study, a groundbreaking study in which 30 employees, the frontiers, are turned completely inside out. The research focuses on promoting health and preventing disease by means of scientific analysis of personal data using the systems biology toolset.


The enthusiasm and commitment of the 30 frontiers have from the start been an incredible driver for all those involved in the study. Thanks to the commitment of all the frontiers, we were able to report 22 350 clinical parameters in 6 months, or an average of 125 parameters per participant per month. The frontiers receive this data every two months in a personal health report and can discuss their health status with the study doctor. The genome and the intestinal flora of each participant were also analysed. These data are now being processed and will be communicated to the participants later this year.


A major challenge during the entire project is managing all the data from the 30 frontiers (genome, epigenome, proteome, microbiome, metabolome, clinical parameters, activity tracking data, ...). These privacy-sensitive data are collected at different moments, stored under different conditions and analysed by several labs. Yet all these data must be compiled in one database, from which they can be further processed, with respect to the privacy of the participants and all legal aspects (in particular GDPR, the European Data Protection Regulations). In collaboration with FlowFactor, an IT-development company, VITO Health has developed in a short time a coherent data infrastructure where all data are collected and processed in an ethically compliant but also safe manner. The infrastructure makes efficient reporting to participants and processing by the researchers possible. We strive for maximum automation with as little manual interventions as possible in data processing. For example, the established data management system is designed to allow for scaling up to be used in time for a larger-scale population study.


More information on the collaboration between VITO Health and FlowFactor can be found in the interview with Hans Habraken, DevOps Engineer at FlowFactor.


Major steps: in these first 6 months we have primarily focused on efficient data collection, optimization of the data flow and reporting to the participants. The major challenge now lies in analysing the data to investigate the interactions between all these biological components at different levels. Every measurement, test, analysis and development brings us a step closer to realising data-driven, personalised and preventive solutions for the healthcare of tomorrow.