Researchers at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine, led by Lucila Ohno-Machado, chief of the Division of Biomedical Informatics in the Department of Medicine, have received two federal grants totaling more than $25 million to develop new ways to gather, analyze, use, and share vast, ever-increasing amounts of biomedical information.
The first grant for $16.7 million over five years will create a national center for biomedical computing called iDASH. The center will be charged with developing novel algorithms, open-source tools, and computational infrastructure and services so that scientists nationwide can share anonymized data essential to large-scale studies and medical progress.
“This new center and effort is a way to democratize science, to bridge the computational divide between institutions like UC San Diego with its deep, extensive computational expertise and infrastructure, such as the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (CalIT2), both of which are playing key roles in the new center, and institutions lacking these resources,” said Ohno-Machado. “The idea is to create new systems and methods that give researchers everywhere access to information that can help push science forward by making optimal use of data and algorithms.”
According to Ohno-Machado, iDASH not only affords the nation with a great resource to share privacy-protected data, but also coordinates talent from several departments, organized research units, and schools at UC San Diego, catalyzing the integration of quantitative and biomedical/behavioral sciences across campus, with involvement of multiple researchers from the Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, and Engineering.
The other research grant is for $8.3 million over three years and is also a transformative initiative. The SCAlable National Network for Effectiveness Research (SCANNER) complements the ideas and goals of the iDASH grant, making it easier to integrate data from health care systems.
SCANNER, led by Ohno-Machado at the SDSC, will create certified computational systems and architecture necessary to securely exchange health information collected at the point of care, so that the same data can be used for comparative effectiveness research. For example, researchers will be able to assess the added value of a new medication like dabigatran, which could replace the popular drug warfarin in the management of anticoagulation. Or they might measure the value added by pharmacist participation in therapy management.
The grant is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Department of Health and Human Services. It involves partners in both academia and industry, among them San Francisco State University, Charles R. Drew University in Los Angeles, Vanderbilt University/Tennessee Valley VA, Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard University, RAND Corporation, and Resilient Networks. By involving health care institutions serving diverse populations as well as interdisciplinary academic and industrial partners in the development of an architecture for secure information exchange, SCANNER takes effective steps into creating a national network for health care and biomedical research data exchange.
Biomedical informatics has become well-recognized by the NIH as an independent, scholarly field of research, collaboration, and training.
— UC San Diego News Office