CanDIG To Be Part of New Digital Health and Discovery Platform

CanDIG Will Help Connect Research Institutes in Canada through the New Digital Health and Discovery Platform

CanDIG to provide an open-source, standards-compliant research data platform for a nation-wide, cross-sector collaboration connecting AI and health data to accelerate research in Cancer

Montreal, 27 May 2019

CanDIG for the Digital Health and Discovery Platform Today, Minister Navdeep Bains announced funding for the Digital Health and Discovery Platform (DHDP) through the health and biosciences stream of the Strategic Innovation Fund.

The DHDP, led by the Terry Fox Research Institute and Canadian AI in healthcare company Imagia, is building a Canada-wide health data platform where researchers and doctors will collaborate to accelerate the development of new and personalized treatments to help to find cures for diseases that affect Canadians.

“This investment promises not only to improve the future of Canadians’ health but also to do it with made-in-Canada solutions. By harnessing Canada’s strengths in health research and AI, we’re helping to usher in a new era of more personalized care that will mean better health outcomes”, said Minister Bains.

CanDIG will play a fundamental role in the DHDP by connecting research centres together using an open-source, standards-based, federated national platform allowing researchers to perform analyses on data sets across the country while allowing each research centre to keep its patients data local and private, in keeping with Canada’s new Digital Charter.

“There’s no better example of our Digital Charter in action than what we’re announcing here today,” said Minister Bains. “This is about privacy, it is about security and safety as well, all coming together to provide incredible outcomes for Canadians.”

“Bringing world-class AI talent to national health data while maintaining patient privacy is such an important challenge,” said Guillaume Bourque, Director of the Centre for Computational Genomics at McGill and Co-PI of CanDIG. “We think we’ve demonstrated a path forward with our very Canadian approach to safely and securely federating access to private health data while respecting the needs of patients and research institutions every step of the way. We’re really enthusiastic about taking this next step.”

As a driver project in the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH), CanDIG will help the Canada-wide DHDP effort stay connected with international efforts. “CanDIG connects this cross-Canadian, cross-sector effort to the international community as part of its work with the global health genomics community, via the Global Alliance,” said Mike Brudno, PI of the CanDIG project and Senior Scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Only two health and biosciences projects were funded by the Strategic Innovation Fund, and a previous track record of success was critical. “CanDIG’s experience as a data platform connecting cancer centres for the Terry Fox Comprehensive Cancer Care Centres pilot shows how much such a platform is needed,” said Steve Jones, Head of Bioinformatics and Co-Director, Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, and Co-PI of CanDIG.

The possibilities for what can now come next also motivate Carl Virtanen, Director and Research Lead at UHN Digital at the University Health Network and Co-PI of CanDIG. “We’re excited about what CanDIG and the DHDP can become. We’ve seen what can be accomplished in providing access to existing data in an open-source, standards-based way. But we’re just scratching the surface. In the coming year as we begin running large analyses pipelines on the data and combining the federated results in new ways, it’ll be amazing what we can do.”


CanDIG is a project building a health genomics platform for national-scale, federated analyses over locally controlled private data sets. It is funded by the CFI Cyberinfrastructure program and connects sites at McGill University, Hospital for Sick Children, UHN Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, Jewish General Hospital and Université de Sherbrooke. It is also a collaboration with Genome Canada, Compute Canada and CANARIE.