Neo4j Inc.’s namesake graph database provides a platform to collect and share a variety of genetic data and other information related to diabetes for Alexander Jarasch, head of data and knowledge management at the German Center for Diabetes Research in Munich.

Known by the acronym DZD in German, the center is using Neo4j as part of its efforts to create new therapies for diabetes patients and find ways to prevent the disease, Jarasch said. He started scripting and prototyping work with the graph database in April 2017 and was joined in that effort by his two other team members last year.

Goodbye to data joins

Alexander Jarasch, head of data and knowledge management, German Center for Diabetes Research Alexander Jarasch After more than 10 years of working in bioinformatics, Jarasch developed an aversion to relational databases — or at least the data joins that so often are central to relational queries. “I hate joins,” he said. “When you have data scattered over tables and you look for insights, it gets complicated.”

Jarasch and his colleagues are looking to use the Neo4j database to enable easier sharing of diverse data within the DZD, which comprises a number of independent research organizations. The data comes from a mix of hospitals, labs and other sources, according to Jarasch; some of the data is on humans, and some is on test animals. “Everybody has their data in silos,” he said. “They exchange data, but there’s no overarching way to connect the data.” That’s what he seeks to achieve via the graph technology.

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