Crimson Project Addresses Critical Samples Shortage
The functions of Crimson Adapted from an image on CrimsonProject.org
No, this isn’t a project to restore old footage of Republic Pictures’ The Crimson Ghost1 serial. The Crimson Project is about the development of an application, called Crimson, designed to address the always critical shortage of samples in clinical research. To accomplish this, a way was devised to enable the HIPAA — and Institutional Review Board (IRB) — compliant use of discarded clinical samples.
The genesis for Crimson began in 2002 when Dr. Lynn Bry received a request for a specific type of blood samples from the biorepository databanks she maintained for another department. While she was able to write a program to retrieve these samples, it quickly became apparent to her that a more sophisticated application was needed, both to provide needed information about the samples and to ensure compliance with regulatory guidelines, such as HIPAA. She then met with Neil Herring, a consultant for Partners HealthCare, and they sketched out the high-level specifications for the application requirements. After an extended search for funding, the actual Crimson application was written by programmers at Daedalus Software over the course of three years and became operational in 2007.2
Crimson allows the re-purposing of discarded clinical samples by handling the anonymization of samples or tracking patient consent and the tracking of all required sample metadata, as well as providing the criteria engine to identify the samples that meet the investigators’ requirements. Beyond this, it also handles what some may view as secondary functions of being able to download sample information into a laboratory information system (LIS), the release/shipping of samples, as well as a system to bill for incurred service expenses.3
The Crimson Project has been interfaced with the Integrating Biology and the Bedside (i2b2) Project. This allows the searching of multiple Crimson nodes, or hives in their terminology, via the i2b2 network, greatly expanding the potential sample pool. As a result of this capability, Crimson has been able to source tens of thousands of phenotyped samples for a number of large-scale genomic studies at a fraction of the cost and time required for traditional methods.4
1. The Crimson Ghost — Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crimson_Ghost
2. Volkers, N. Answering Biomedical Questions with Information Technology. Science Careers (2010); http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/ career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/ 2010_07_30/caredit.a1000075
3. Crimson Project — Features. Crimson Project http://crimsonproject.net/features.html
4. Lynn Bry, M.D., Ph.D., HMS. Faculty | PCPGM http://pcpgm.partners.org/about-us/ leadership/faculty#lowerSection
John Joyce is a laboratory informatics specialist based in Richmond, VA. He may be reached at editor@ScientificComputing.com.