Digital Database Advances Heart Research; Boston Scientific Latest Co. to Access UR Resource

Jul. 30, 2015

Electrocardiograms or ECGs are used in hospitals and doctors’ offices every day to check for problems with the electrical activity of the heart. Many of the world’s largest medical device companies, as well as elite research universities, are turning to the University of Rochester Medical Center to help make ECGs more effective, faster and portable.electrocardiogram

URMC’s Heart Research Follow-up Program is home to the Telemetric and Holter ECG Warehouse, an electronic database of ECG recordings from cardiac patients and healthy individuals. It includes millions of recordings from clinical trials, drug studies and other NIH-funded projects. It was developed at URMC in conjunction with the NIH and FDA. Academic and industry scientists use the data to test new ECG technologies that are designed to provide more accurate information about a patient’s risk of heart problems. Boston Scientific, Inc., one of the largest cardiac device makers, recently purchased access to the database.

The database is also tapped by pharmaceutical companies to test how drugs affect the heart. It is estimated that more than 85 percent of all new drug candidates influence the electrical activity of the heart, potentially leading to abnormal heart rhythms and sudden cardiac death. Companies use the large number of ECG recordings to evaluate new ways to measure how drugs change (or not) the heart’s regular rhythm.   

To date, 21 private companies and more than 50 not-for-profit organizations (universities, government entities, foundations, etc.) have accessed the database for research activities. The data is also used to teach medical students and research trainees about the heart’s complex electrical system. Locally, the database is used by the Medical Center, the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering on the University’s River Campus, and by various departments at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Jean-Phillippe Couderc, Ph.D., M.B.A., associate professor of Medicine and assistant director of the Heart Research Follow-up Program, developed the resource with the NIH and FDA and manages it along with four other employees at URMC.