Scalable Global Trusted Research Environment

the francis crick institute

Leveraging cloud technology to enable research collaboration at scale.

The Francis Crick Institute does research in biomedicine partnering with academic, medical and industry organisations. The Institute aims to advance treatment, diagnosis and prevention of human disease, simultaneously generating economic opportunities for the UK.

What we did

Present a working exemplar platform
Prove the principle of integrating identity management and workflow orchestration
Implement a pay-as-you-go billing structure
Design and assess the technologies

The Challenge

The Francis Crick Institute needed a new approach to trusted research environments (TREs) that would facilitate consortium-based research and interoperability among institutions.

Existing TRE approaches would create major administrative barriers to innovative research with organisations or individuals using local infrastructure and being unable to combine sets from different TREs. They would also lead to poor data management, lack of auditability, security issues and limited computational resources. When they use the same tech resources, this contributes to better:

  1. Speed of access
  2. Monitoring to make sure organisations are doing what they are supposed to
  3. Security of the data being shared
  4. Cost control and transparency
The task

A cloud-native solution to foster collaboration

The Francis Crick Institute needed a cloud-based solution that would enable other TREs to pay for time on the cloud and utilise cutting-edge technology in their research that they would otherwise not be able to access. They called it the DARE UK project.

Infinite Lambda first set out to help the Institute test and evaluate a variety of technologies they would then recommend to the UK Research Institute (UKRI) to invest in.

Our goals were to:

  • Present a working exemplar platform showing the end-to-end process from establishing a new research partnership, setting up users and computing resources, providing data access, governing access and shares made, and providing facilities with access via APIs and ELT tools;
  • Prove the principle of integrating identity management and workflow orchestration to standardise TRE management processes and to demonstrate the ease of integration;
  • Support the client in documenting 7 major use cases from individual research groups to major existing TREs, showing how each could benefit from this ecosystem;
  • Provide a technical analysis of the ability of the ecosystem components to address each use-case to be presented at the final report stage.
The solution

A scalable trusted research environment in Snowflake

We proposed a virtual TREs model based on a concept for a common data fabric that enables both existing TREs and local datasets to publish data into a shared elastic compute and storage environment.

In our solution, each project would occupy its own computational unit with local security controls and data specified in a common access capability. Our preferred infrastructure as code techniques allowed for advanced automations that would improve speed and contribute to policy compliance. As a result, data could be combined many times over in different contexts.

We fully met the client’s billing requirements as well. As billing could be microsliced and allocated to individual projects or grants, each TREs could be billed for the exact volume of resources they were using.

The technology we useD

The Result

Using innovation to bring experts together

The solution we developed would enable collaboration among UK TREs and researchers within Europe and even suggest such collaborations to bring experts together. The platform would allow researchers to see which similar experiments have been unsuccessful, learn from the results and set their own parameters accordingly.

We implemented a pay-as-you-go billing structure which allows researchers to pay for the minutes they have used and optimise budgets. Essentially, this would speed up project work as they would not need to seek funding to build their own data platforms and would be able to access a cutting-edge solution right away.

Infinite Lambda helped the Francis Crick Institute design and assess the technologies for each aspect of a solution, which would open the door for numerous ground breaking ideas.

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