University of Maryland Campuses Collaborate on AI Initiative to Prevent Cyberattacks

Aug. 13, 2019

The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) have signed an agreement in which the two campuses will partner on advancing artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to protect medical data and devices from cyberattacks.

The organizations also plan to collaborate on greater data-based medical research, according to a press release announcement this week.

“We have a lot of medical expertise. UMBC has a lot of cybersecurity and information technology expertise, and the putting of these two together will certainly strengthen both our two universities and the state of Maryland,” Bruce Jarrell, M.D., executive vice president, provost, and dean of the Graduate School, said in a statement. “It allows us to use the very broad data that we gather in delivering healthcare to ask research questions that perhaps we might not be able to ask in the past that would allow us to improve patient safety and advance our progress in cures.”

Through the partnership, UMBC will look to provide critical capabilities, called core resources, to the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research’s (ICTR) informatics core, adding a new “cybersecurity and artificial intelligence” core that will aim to enable the design of machine learning models to analyze large data sets, determine what additional data could be collected to potentially improve analysis, and uncover and overcome possible cybersecurity risks associated with devices and/or systems, according to officials.

“Whereas before we would think about innovations, technological innovations, now we always think about cybersecurity as part of that, that is part of the project, with a clinical project or a research project,” said Stephen N. Davis, UMB vice president of clinical and translational research, director of UMB’s ICTR and director of the Department of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The UMB-UMBC partnership also provides important capabilities in support of the Baltimore hub of the NIH-funded Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA). UMB joined Johns Hopkins University (JHU) this spring in this five-year grant designed to “improve the translational process, getting more treatments to patients more quickly.” The JHU-UMB “hub” is one of just 60 in the U.S.

In a letter to the UMB community, President Jay A. Perman, M.D., wrote, “The [CTSA] program amplifies clinical and translational research across campus. It doesn’t target a specific disease or a specific patient population. Rather, it targets the very capabilities we need to more efficiently get our best science out of the lab and into patient care.”

He went on to say that among other things they are synthesizing their electronic health records (EHRs)/ That means the partners “can aggregate and analyze patient and population data in a way that sheds light on those we serve and how we might serve them better. “

Karl V. Steiner, Ph.D., vice president for research at UMBC, noted, “Part of it is defense and part of it is scientific offense,” adding that “the most exciting area” for the partnership is “looking through the vast amount of data being compiled and finding occurrences or finding opportunities, maybe a unique link that we didn’t discover through natural language processing, through artificial intelligence, going through this data and really looking to see is there this needle in a haystack, except the haystacks are huge and the needles are really, really tiny, to see how we can really help our colleagues here with some discoveries.”