The Seven Oaks General Hospital has opened a new space for medical researchers looking at the prevention, early identification, and treatment of chronic disease including diabetes, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease.

The Chronic Disease Innovation Centre officially opened Friday and is already home to a research team affiliated with the University of Manitoba's Rady Faculty of Medicine that's using big data to identify and prevent chronic disease, and improve health care effectiveness.

"We're not building a centre hoping we can attract researchers and a research team, they are already here, accomplishing great things," said Seven Oaks General Hospital Foundation executive director, Twylla Krueger, in a release. "We have built them a space for big dreams, big ideas and a big impact on the way healthcare is delivered in Manitoba."

The centre will confidentially collect patient information to help identify and prevent chronic disease. By collecting patient data, researchers hope to help to predict the risk of disease and improve patient treatment in the future.

Dr. Claudio Rigatto

Dr. Claudio Rigatto of Seven Oaks General Hospital's Chronic Disease Innovation Centre. (CBC)

"We can actually follow the patient journey for individual patients and know what happened to them, when they were diagnosed, how their illness evolved and how they were treated," explained Dr. Claudio Rigatto, one of the three principal investigators who will be leading a team of 10 staff at the centre. "This is one huge source of raw data that we can use our sophisticated techniques and statistical models to really enhance our understanding.

"It allows us to have the predictive tools so that when we're in front of the patient we can have a really informed discussion with them."

Rigatto says the number of patients in Manitoba requiring treatment for kidney failure is expected to double by 2024.

"This is a major health problem, first and foremost for the patients who are afflicted, but I think also for the system and for society," he said. "It will be a real challenge to accommodate those kinds of increases in numbers.

"The work that we do is very important and it's very, very timely."

While the centre's focus will start with diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease, Rigatto says the researchers hope to expand it to include multiple chronic diseases in the future.

"Although we have our clinical specialty in kidney disease, the tools that we bring to bear are things that we can apply to any chronic disease because there are similarities across diseases in the way that they evolve and the way that they affect patients," he explained. "We hope to create a real interdisciplinary team here with all the tools in the toolbox that are required to do the kind of research that tackles the entire spectrum of chronic diseases in the province."

The centre's funding came through private donations and corporate investment and research team is also working with business to come up with new technology in health care.