Alberta Project Explores Use of Synthetic Data as Alternative to Health Data Utilization

EDMONTON, Alberta, May 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Health City and the Institute of Health Economics (IHE) are pleased to welcome Merck Canada as a new partner to an innovative Alberta collaboration aimed at exploring the potential uses for synthetic health data. Merck Canada will be joining existing partners Alberta Innovates and the University of Alberta, and will support the acceleration of research in the field of synthetic data use with the ultimate goal of helping improve health outcomes for Canadians.

Synthetic data accurately simulates patient-derived datasets and, although generated from real world data, is not linked to the individuals from whom the data were derived. Synthetic datasets can be shared freely among innovators and researchers without raising patient privacy concerns or contravening the Alberta Health Information Act because the data contains no real patient health information, an important distinction.

The collaborating partners engaged the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta (OIPC) to ensure synthetic data can be used in a way that respects the privacy of citizens.

“We believe the ability to quickly generate high-quality synthetic data will be a game changer for clinical trials and will provide for multiple uses in artificial intelligence & machine learning,” said Tim Murphy, VP Health, Alberta Innovates. “It also has the potential to grow our economy and knowledge industries.”

The first phase of the project, which took place in October 2020, validated the first synthetic health dataset in Alberta. The success of Phase I informed the current phase, which aims to establish use cases for the synthetic datasets. Validating synthetic datasets and establishing use cases creates further opportunities for innovators to work alongside the health system while preserving patient privacy. Creating opportunities for innovators and researchers is a vital step in attracting investment to the province.

“We are very pleased to support Alberta’s innovators and be part of this exciting collaboration to accelerate research in the field of synthetic data use,” said Heidi Waser, Executive Director, Patient Access at Merck Canada. “It is by working together through innovative collaborations such as this one that we will help facilitate access to health information critical to scientific advancement, ultimately helping improve Canadian health outcomes.”

“Synthetic data is a promising way to address the challenges of using personal health data directly and we are pleased that Merck Canada has joined this exciting project,” stated Dr. Chris McCabe, CEO at IHE. “We need now to move from theory to actually testing the approach on some practical use cases coming from innovator and researcher questions.”

Merck Canada’s involvement in the project marks the first occasion a multinational corporation has invested in a synthetic data project in Alberta.

“This is an exciting development for health innovation. Establishing the ability to freely access and share health datasets while preserving patient privacy will drive improved health outcomes and economic growth for Alberta. Eliminating barriers to information sharing will attract the attention of multinationals corporations to the province,” said Reg Joseph, CEO at Health City. “Merck Canada’s involvement in the project is a glimpse at what synthetic data could mean for Alberta’s innovation sector.”

About Health City

Health City is a Canadian not-for-profit Corporation that works with clinicians, innovators, philanthropic organizations, and companies to develop new pathways of care that can drive better health outcomes and economic development in the health sector. Our focus is on transforming innovations from our health sector into solutions that have commercial application and global relevance, adopting them for impact locally and scaling them for export to global markets.

For more information, visit

About Institute of Health Economics

Institute of Health Economics (IHE) is a not-for-profit health research organization providing expertise to provincial and national stakeholders from the public and private sectors in evidence production, synthesis and application; economic analysis; and policy engagement. It was founded in 1995 on the belief that the best solutions to healthcare problems are the result of a collaborative approach, with all stakeholders at the table sharing insights and information in support of improved health outcomes and a thriving economy.

For more information, visit

About Merck Canada

For more than 130 years, Merck, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases in pursuit of our mission to save and improve lives. We demonstrate our commitment to patients and population health by increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. Today, Merck continues to be at the forefront of research to prevent and treat diseases that threaten people and animals – including cancer, infectious diseases such as HIV and Ebola, and emerging animal diseases – as we aspire to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world. For more information about our operations in Canada, visit and connect with us on YouTube and Twitter @MerckCanada

About Alberta Innovates

Alberta Innovates invests in research, innovation and entrepreneurship to drive provincial economic growth and diversity. We ignite the power of innovation through our work with researchers, industry and entrepreneurs to move Alberta to a lower-carbon future, promote the responsible use of land and water, and contribute to the improved health and well-being of Albertans. 


Alberta Innovates provides technical expertise, entrepreneurial advice and support, opportunities for partnerships, and funding to advance the best ideas. We support a broad range of research and innovation activity – from discovery to use. Collaboration is at the heart of what we do – bringing together bright minds and great ideas. 


Find out how Alberta innovates:

Media Inquiries:

Health City

Stephanie Gillis-Paulgaard

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 780-628-3101

Alberta Innovates

Dwayne Brunner

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 587-572-4091

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