Clarke Professor Awarded Over $97,000 to Continue Development of HIV Database

posted on May 28, 2008

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, is a moving target. The virus simultaneously disables both the immune system and drug treatment regimens, and combined with a rapid rate of genetic mutation, it is extremely difficult to treat. One key to uncovering the best way to treat the disease is through analysis of data about current treatment and progression.

Enter George Towfic, Ph.D.
Towfic, an associate professor of computer science at Clarke College, was recently recognized as the principal investigator and recipient of a $97,164 grant from the Grow Iowa Values Fund to support development of a complex database of medical information related to HIV – a project that has the potential to add significant accomplishments in the area of HIV treatments.

In 2004, Towfic, Judy Munshower, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics at Clarke, and Samira Towfic, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science, began development of mathematical and statistical models to be used as Web-based analysis tools.  To further their work, George Towfic established partnerships between Clarke College and national research institutions Stanford College, the College of Iowa, and the College of Wisconsin - Madison. A significant addition to this collaboration was the recent support provided by John Viner, MD, a Dubuque-area leader in the area of HIV and infectious diseases.

Funding from the recent Grow Iowa Values Fund grant will be used to continue the implementation of the database and analysis tools which, through use of data from partner schools, will seek to be the most comprehensive Web-based HIV analysis library in Iowa and Wisconsin. The resulting analysis tools can be used by physicians, clinics and researchers to study the effect of different HIV regimens under different patients and viral progression conditions.  The library will also be a valuable resource for physicians and the health community in resource-indigent countries. 

“Our medical center collaborators have collected data from patients since 1983, but there has never been a forum to share and analyze the collected data,” said Towfic. “Now, we will all work together to develop a forum to share this beneficial information from medical trials.”
Using the data gathered from medical patients, Clarke will work with its collaborators to put the data into a medium that is easily accessed by experts from across the country. But gathering the data is only the first step. The partners will then work with the nation's top HIV experts to verify and analyze the data.
This database and analysis tools will help physicians, clinics and academic researchers to make use of the published datasets and the analyses tools to make better decisions in treating HIV infected patients and understanding HIV progression.
“Clarke is playing a significant role in what we believe will be a very exciting national project and the expertise and tools developed by this project could be used to document and analyze other infectious diseases,” said Towfic. Matching funds for the project were obtained from the Dubuque Racing Association, the Maytag Corporation Foundation, and Clarke College.
For more information, contact the Clarke College Marketing and Communication Office at (563)588-6318.


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