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HeavyBASE: a Python peer-to-peer database for clinical trials and biobanks

by Luca Clivio for EuroPython 2012

Clinical trials for drugs or other treatments always involve the exchange of large quantities of potentially senstiive data, and over the years software (databases) has been developed to handle such an exchange easily and securely. Most software uses a centralized, web-based approach: however this apparently simple solution has many disadvantages in the field of clinical trials. In particular, hospitals and data centers have often network issues either due to infrastructure or restrictive IT policies. Also, a centralized database is a considerable legal burden for the hosting institution.

HeavyBASE is a possible solution to this problem: it is an open-source (GPL3) database developed in Python which takes a different approach to the issue. HeavyBASE works in a similar fashion as the Bit Torrent protocol, using a decentralized infrastructure where the peers (the participants to the trial) exchange data among themselves without the need of a central database. The database itself is a single SQLite file distributed and synchronized among peers. Security is also provided in the form of strong encryption of both the database contents and the database itself. Connection between peers is achieved using different methods, including peer discovery and UDP hole punching. The system can however also work offline in case of no connectivity, immediately synchronizing with the rest of the network as soon as a connection is established.

HeavyBASE is cross platform (Windows, OSX and Linux), only depending on the Python standard library and WxPython for its GUI. It is distributed as a self-contained bundle requiring no installation and runs without administrator privileges.

This talk will focus on the architecture of HeavyBASE and its implementation in Python, higlighting issues and solutions found along the way.



  1. Gravatar
    Where can I download HeavyBASE?
  2. Gravatar
    Hello Péter,
    For allowing the download of HeavyBase i need some months, just because I need to write some documentation, or you won't be able of use it. The problem is that i have initially developed it for using it by myself as an internal tool for the institute where I work, so it doesn't have easy administration interfaces for managing it, so I should ship myself with the software :-) Now I am working to build easy to use graphical interfaces for database administration as well, and a documentation for it. So I believe I should be able to transform it from a prototype as it is actually is to a product by this autumn. Also, I hope to find an help by someone. The website will be anyway.


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45 minutes (inc Q&A)

Tagged as

database distributed healthcare
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