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NIH Funds Health Centers to Tackle Big Data Challenges

October 13, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has invested $32 million in its Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative in an effort to analyze and leverage the explosion of increasingly complex biomedical data sets.

The funding will establish 12 centers that will each tackle specific data science challenges—including how researchers can share data gleaned from electronic medical records (EMRs) without compromising the privacy of patients. The awards will also provide support for a consortium to cultivate a scientific community-based approach on the development of a data discovery index, and for data science training and workforce development, NIH announced. The funding is projected to have a total investment of nearly $656 million through 2020.

With the advent of transformative technologies for biomedical research, such as DNA sequencing and imaging, biomedical data generation is exceeding researchers’ ability to capitalize on the data. The BD2K awards will support the development of new approaches, software, tools, and training programs to improve access to these data and the ability to make new discoveries using them. Investigators hope to explore novel analytics to mine large amounts of data, while protecting privacy, for eventual application to improving human health. Examples include an improved ability to predict who is at increased risk for breast cancer, heart attack and other diseases and condition, and better ways to treat and prevent them.

Of the 12 "centers of excellence" to be established under the BD2K initiative, four California institutions —UCLA, USC, UC Santa Cruz and Stanford University—will be tapped to play a major role, according to an LA Times report. Collectively, the four universities are to be awarded $7 million in 2014 and are slated to receive close to $38 million over the next four years, the report said.

“Data creation in today’s research is exponentially more rapid than anything we anticipated even a decade ago,” NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. said in a news release statement. “Mammoth data sets are emerging at an accelerated pace in today’s biomedical research and these funds will help us overcome the obstacles to maximizing their utility. The potential of these data, when used effectively, is quite astounding.”

Read the source article at National Institutes of Health (NIH)



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