I focus on knowledge management in biomedicine and healthcare with the aim of improving personalised medical assessments and public health. I work at the Institute of Biomedical Technologies (ITB) of the Italian Research Council (CNR) where I am exploring how epidemiological and biomedical knowledge of diagnostic and therapeutic significance can be integrated by means of innovative approaches. I explore models to represent knowledge of biological characteristics of disease as associated with diverse disease trajectories, treatments and outcomes.
Keywords: knowledge management, knowledge integration, interdisciplinary, eHealth, personalised medicine, ontology, classification, knowledge-bases, knowledge representation, semantics, modularity, contextual reasoning, healthcare systems modelling, risk assessment, prevention, personalised medicine
Interdisciplinary Approach to Knowledge Integration
I am interested in research and development of solutions to the challenges of contemporary society that ask for an integrative view and a 'big picture' for 'big data'. Scientific research projects as well as the standardised international systems (disease classification, engineering standards etc.) usually capture just limited segments of knowledge acquired within special interest groups. In order to integrate dispersed pieces of knowledge and support interoperability of diverse information sources, the innovative and efficient knowledge management employs strategies that can bridge the heterogeneity of theoretical, conceptual, and practical aims. In practice, I analyse intended modelling-objectives, task-related specifications and requirements, domain similarities, and diversities across various contexts. That involves the analysis of alternative strategies and solutions that may support the integration of disconnected pieces of knowledge and optimise the information architecture on a top level. My research goals focus on the seamless flow of information across various domains, aligned with reference models and standards, e.g. ICD-11, LOINC, ICF, SNOMED-CT, HL7, CDISC, DICOM, EN13606, ISO 18308.
Biomedicine: Information Management, IoT & Ontologies
I examine how a combination of a posteriori and a priori approaches in data modelling as well as data integration can lead to significant scientific discoveries. I am currently involved in a project that examines the genetic and biological basis of the inverse relationship between Alzheimer Disease and Cancer. An a posteriori stratification of genetic profiles associated with the two diseases grounds on epidemiological evidence that we integrate with a priori approaches based on semantic associations, statistical and ontological enrichments of relevant datasets. I am currently exploring how the combination of various approaches, including investigation of protein-protein interactions and the shared molecular pathways, may drive the processes of carcinogenesis and neurodegeneration in two opposite directions.
In the period between 2014 and 2018 I have been working on an EU project that integrates information related to the physical status and behavioural habits of adolescents (nutritional and physical activity). The project aims at reducing obesity and obesity-related diseases by promoting a healthy life style via new technologies and wearable devices. Within this project I have developed a method to modularise the domain information and support management of domain-specific knowledge across interconnected modules. Such a modular structure supports independent evolution and validation of each domain that may be associated with distributed databases that store information from various wearables and senosors. Following the method, a modular ontology was developed. The ontology model was enhanced with the inference rules that are used to automatically assess personal health conditions.
My interests in biomedical ontologies started in 2008, during my Ph.D. research at the Department of Experimental Oncology, where I gained experience in the fields of molecular oncology, bioinformatics, and wet laboratory practices. In my Ph.D. project, I was examining how clinical and molecular knowledge about breast cancer can be integrated by means of biomedical ontologies and related technologies. My motivation to address the problems of knowledge integration from an interdisciplinary perspective originates in the peculiarity of the integrative endeavour of sciences that is fostered by information technologies and ontology engineering methods. In my dissertation ‘Biomedical ontologies: examining aspects of integration across breast cancer knowledge domains’, the principal aim was to disentangle problems that arise from a clash of domain-specific research foci. I have been looking for frames and solutions that can support knowledge exchange and interoperability of generated knowledge. The supervision of my Ph.D. research project was provided by Giovanni Boniolo (IEO), Sabina Leonelli (Egenis), and Salvatore Pece (IEO).
During my work in the Institute of Industrial Technologies and Automation I explored the contemporary manufacturing systems that scatter along the physical spaces of factory and the data spaces of digitalised systems. I examined how ontologies and data models may provide links between these two kinds of spaces in order to support organisation and interpretation of data in a consistent manner. In particular, I am interested in the design of information systems and related semantic models that can enable interoperability across the key technological components in a context that also includes human factors and their environment. I am particularly interested in modelling work-systems that are open for change in performance as they can adapt to the market needs as well as to the human diversities, capacities, and capabilities. Besides exploring innovative and creative approaches to the real-world challenges, I have been working on knowledge-based modelling that relies on the relevant industrial standards, e.g. IFC, ISO 6983, ISO 14649-10 STEP-NC, ISO 9241 etc.
Currently I am working on a model that should be able to support automated measurement and assessment of Usability, User Experience (UX) and User Satisfaction (US). The model is foreseen as an enabler of adaptivity of machines to the human physical and cognitive states as the seamless flow of information would be provided between the sensors associated with human and machine-agents. To this purpose the first version of a modular ontology was developed as to capture various kinds of users and user groups considered in a context of use.
As a visiting scholar at the Research Center on Spatial Cognition, University of Bremen, Germany, I started collaborating with Oliver Kutz and Till Mossakowski. I have been involved in the development of the Ontohub repository (a member of the OOR network) which implements a knowledge-based system (using web infrastructure) in order to support organisation, collection, retrieval, mapping, translation, and the consistency checking for a wide array of ontologies and ontology languages. In addition, I have been working on networking with the partners of the SpacePortal Consortium. SpacePortal is the next generation semantic repository for spatial ontologies (being based on Ontohub technologies), and my duties included collection and organisation of space-related ontologies.