Clinical Data Science Institute

Leveraging Big Data to Improve Patient Care

Exciting advances in artificial intelligence and big data have the potential to transform patient care, and Harvard Ophthalmology is leading the way. In 2020, the department established the Clinical Data Science Institute, which leverages big data to build stronger health profiles and predictive models in order to improve the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases. 

This new frontier of research in ophthalmology involves the analysis of large datasets and integration of imaging modalities with clinical information to:

•    Better understand the root cause of diseases, with the ultimate goal of developing new treatments and cures
•    Compare treatments for common diseases and improve treatment algorithms
•    Identify progressive disease earlier—before vision loss occurs
•    Better understand rare disease, which can lead to new treatments
•    Identify disparities in the healthcare system in order to identify opportunities for intervention
•    Identify wasted resources in the healthcare system in order to invest where resources are needed

Members of the Institute have already made several important discoveries. Notably, researchers have found a potential link between low Vitamin D levels and noninfectious uveitis. This finding has sparked additional research into uveitis risk factors, uncovering an association between hormone replacement and contraceptive therapy and uveitis risk. Other researchers have used artificial intelligence to identify central field patterns that improve the prediction of glaucoma prediction. 

Clinical Registries

Our faculty have access to a growing repository of databases, including:

  • The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s IRIS® Registry (Intelligent Research in Sight)—the nation's first comprehensive eye disease and condition registry
  • The Mass Eye and Ear Enterprise Data Warehouse—a database of Mass Eye and Ear medical and billing records
  • The Mass General Brigham Research Patient Data Repository (RPDR)—a clinical data registry that gathers medical records from Mass General Brigham hospitals and clinics
  • The Mass General Brigham Biobank—a repository of consented patient blood samples that are linked to the electronic medical record from and supplemented with health information and family history in 125,000+ patients
  • Mass Eye and Ear Imaging Repository—a curated repository of Mass Eye and Ear ophthalmic images and visual fields
  • Mass Eye and Ear Retina, Uveitis, and Glaucoma databases


Lucia Sobrin, MD
Co-Director, Clinical Data Science Institute
Associate Chief of Clinical Data Science, Mass Eye and Ear

Tobias Elze, PhD
Co-Director, Clinical Data Science Institute

Joan W. Miller, MD
Co-Principal Investigator of IRIS® Registry Research Group, Mass Eye and Ear

Alice Lorch, MD, MPH
Co-Principal Investigator of IRIS® Registry Research Group, Mass Eye and Ear

Michael Ricci
Chief Information Officer and Vice President of Information Services, Mass Eye and Ear