TRW tool targets fed research community

TRW Inc. last week unveiled a new software package that allows research-based organizations to quickly search and collate huge amounts of information stored in databases throughout the world.

TRW's InfoWeb Architecture, which is based on similar technology TRW developed for an intelligence agency in the Defense Department, allows researchers to comb the Internet, publishers' databases, government messaging systems, wire services and other databases for information and then collate and store that information so other researchers can access the documents.

Integrators are finding Internet-related search tools a growth opportunity (see related story, page 56).

InfoWeb also will search graphs, tables and spatial data as well as information that is stored in nonprint media, including video and audio clips on the Internet and CD-ROMs. The findings are linked together to form a single document so that other researchers searching for similar information can access the data.

InfoWeb made its debut at the Multi-Disciplinary Research Center, which was dedicated last week as part of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. MDRC officials plan to use the system for health care research, particularly for studying health issues that affect minorities. TRW donated the system to the center.

MDRC is the first commercial or academic use of InfoWeb, and TRW plans to market the system to other research-based organizations, including agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration. TRW is using InfoWeb for internal use as well.

Tracking Disease Rates

"Information comes from a large array of sources, and to collect that data consumes a lot of time," said Dr. Margaret Kadree, MDRC director. "InfoWeb offers us the capability to retrieve data from a wide range of sources in less time and also has the promise to store data about various disease processes and other information to make available to other scientists."

Kadree said little research has been done on why certain diseases—such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension—affect blacks at a higher rate than whites. The research that has been done is hard to find and sometimes misinterpreted because of cultural differences between researchers and the groups being studied.

"InfoWeb will allow us to collect the same kind of data that a majority medical institution collects, but because we have a large number of [black] researchers here, we can apply the cultural nuances" that may explain the differences in the rates of disease, Kadree said.

InfoWeb allows users to define a narrow search. For example, a researcher could create a query to look for data on blacks, hazardous waste sites in Arkansas and above-average rates of cancer, said Sal Fazzolari, a TRW marketing manager.

"The query would tap various databases on the Internet or anywhere and come back with various hits," he said. "You can get that specific."

Research conducted using InfoWeb could find its way into state or federal health care policies. Findings from this research could be used to reform Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor, or Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly, Kadree added.

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