Press release: “Data privacy builds trust” Fabian Prasser responds to call for BIH Professorship for Medical Informatics at BIH and Charité

On September 1, Fabian Prasser from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) assumed the W3-Professorship for Medical Informatics at the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Together with his team at the BIH, the medical IT specialist will be primarily tasked with strengthening the areas of data integration and data privacy in patient care and medical research. The appointment of Fabian Prasser sees the BIH further expand its expertise in the field of digital medicine.

“The digitalization of medicine has many advantages,” says Professor Fabian Prasser with conviction. “It helps make medicine more personalized, preventative, and participatory, with each patient receiving the exact treatment that he or she needs. It also allows us to apply far more targeted preventative measures and enables patients to be more active participants in their own health.” Speaking about the BIH’s core mission of translation – the transfer of research results from bench to bedside and vice versa – the 37-year-old computer scientist explains that digitalization is vital to the success of laboratory research into questions that arise from patient care. But there are still a few hurdles to overcome. “The biggest challenge that I see at the moment is in consolidating the vast quantities of medical data from various sources such as electronic patient records, imaging techniques, genome sequencing, and research systems in a way that conforms with data privacy regulations,” explains Prasser. It is here that the German government’s Medical Informatics Initiative comes in. Over the coming years, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is pouring €150 million into making health and research data more usable. This funding initiative is intended to strengthen medical research and improve patient care. Fabian Prasser was closely involved in one of the initiative’s consortia, and is therefore already acquainted with his colleagues in Berlin and at the BIH.

Digital health as a central focus for the BIH

The BIH Professorship for Medical Informatics held by Fabian Prasser is now the sixth professorship in the area of digital health to be filled by the BIH in the past three years. Alongside the BIH Chair for Digital Health, Professor Roland Eils, there are various research groups and junior research groups working on the digital collection and secure use of biomedical data. It is for this very reason that Prasser is looking forward to
working at the BIH: “One person alone cannot possibly cover all aspects of this complex topic. I can see that digital health is becoming a central focus here at the BIH and that the right people are in place to cover the various relevant areas. I am firmly convinced that we can build something big here in Berlin that has the potential to also serve as a role model.”

Anonymous data for greater protection

Fabian Prasser was born in Starnberg in 1982 and studied computer science at the TUM with a minor in theoretical medicine. He completed his interdisciplinary doctoral thesis both at the Institute of Medical Informatics, Statistics and Epidemiology as Chair of Medical Informatics and in the Department of Informatics as Chair for Database Systems. In these roles, he examined modern methods of data integration for translational medical research. Another focus of his research is data privacy, which was also the subject of his thesis for his postdoctoral lecturing qualification (Habilitation). Fabian Prasser has received several awards for his work on data anonymization, including the Johann Peter Sü.milch Medal of the German Association for Medical Informatics, Biometry and Epidemiology in 2017.

“Protective measures like anonymization are very important in order to be able to bring together data from healthcare and research and to use this data for further research,” says Fabian Prasser. “This is the only way we can gain patients’ trust so they feel comfortable sharing their data with doctors and researchers.” Prasser developed an effective tool for this very purpose that is already being used internationally. He says that he and his team would now like to further develop this and other solutions. “As medical IT specialists, we are, of course, very much involved in developing applications, and would like to create added value for our colleagues in healthcare and medical research,” explains Prasser. “But, of course, we also have our own research questions regarding how we can best solve the various problems we encounter. And such solutions
are urgently needed in order to make optimal use of digital medicine’s potential to improve healthcare.”

Berlin as a medical informatics hotspot

The decision to move from Munich to Berlin was not a difficult one for Prasser: “Berlin is a hotspot in the field of medical informatics, especially since the introduction of the government’s Medical Informatics Initiative. I’ve visited Berlin many times, both professionally and privately, and know the city very well. I couldn’t have imagined a better place for a new professional start!”