[ascct] NIH announces "big data" grants

  • From: Kristie Sullivan <KSullivan@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: "ascct@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <ascct@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 11 Oct 2014 15:26:55 -0400

http://www.nih.gov/news/health/oct2014/od-09.htmFor Immediate Release: 
Thursday, October 9, 2014, 10:30 a.m. EDT
NIH invests almost $32 million to increase utility of biomedical research data
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Wide-ranging National Institutes of Health grants announced today will develop 
new strategies to analyze and leverage the explosion of increasingly complex 
biomedical data sets, often referred to as Big Data. These NIH multi-institute 
awards constitute an initial investment of nearly $32 million in fiscal year 
2014 by NIH’s Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative, which is projected to 
have a total investment of nearly $656 million through 2020, pending available 

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.

NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K)

“Data creation in today’s research is exponentially more rapid than anything we 
anticipated even a decade ago,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., 
Ph.D. “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.”

The funding will establish 12 centers that will each tackle specific data 
science challenges. 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.

Studies generating large amounts of data continue to proliferate, from imaging 
projects to epidemiological studies examining thousands of participants to 
large disease-oriented efforts such as The Cancer Genome 
Atlas<http://cancergenome.nih.gov/>, which examines the genomic underpinnings 
of more than 30 types of cancer, and the ENCODE 
Project<http://www.genome.gov/10005107>, which seeks to identify all functional 
elements in the human genome. Such efforts have generated billions of data 
points and provide opportunities for the original researchers and other 
investigators to use these results in their own work to advance our knowledge 
of biology and biomedicine.

“The future of biomedical research is about assimilating data across biological 
scales from molecules to populations,” said Philip E. Bourne, Ph.D., NIH 
associate director for data science. “As such, the health of each one of us is 
a big data problem. Ensuring that we are getting the most out of the research 
data that we fund is a high priority for NIH.”

Dr. Bourne, in calling for the establishment of a “digital ecosystem” for 
biomedical research, said that the new BD2K programs are at the forefront of 
NIH’s efforts to increase the efficiency and cost effectiveness of scientific 

Challenges in making the best use of such biomedical information are many. They 
include problems of locating data and the appropriate software tools to access 
and analyze them, lack of data standards for many types of data, and the low 
adoption of data standards across the research community. There is also a need 
for new policies to facilitate data sharing while protecting privacy. A lack of 
standards and an unwillingness to make data available to colleagues hampers 
efforts to make data fully useful to the broad research community. Large data 
sets are relatively expensive to generate and the return on investment 
increases when they are shared and used widely. Many scientists also do not 
have the opportunity or facility to use big data. While teams at large research 
universities and academic medical centers may have bioinformatics and data 
infrastructure, individual scientists in the biomedical research community may 
not. Regardless of their research facilities, many scientists have not been 
trained in the computational skills to access and analyze large data sets.

The four main components of the new BD2K awards are:


 *   Centers of Excellence for Big Data Computing. These 11 centers will 
develop innovative approaches, methods, software, tools and other resources. 
While the development efforts will focus on specific research questions, their 
output is expected to be more generally relevant to various aspects of big data 
science, such as data integration and use, analysis of genomic data and 
managing data from electronic health records.
 *   BD2K-LINCS Perturbation Data Coordination and Integration Center. This 
center will be a data coordination center for the NIH Common Fund’s Library of 
Integrated Network-based Cellular Signatures (LINCS) program, which aims to 
characterize how a variety of types of cells, tissues and networks respond to 
disruption by drugs and other factors. The center will support data science 
research focusing on interpreting and integrating LINCS-generated data from 
different data types and databases in the LINCS-funded projects. This center is 
co-funded by BD2K and the NIH Common Fund.
 *   BD2K Data Discovery Index Coordination Consortium (DDICC). This program 
will create a consortium to begin a community-based development of a biomedical 
data discovery index that will enable discovery, access and citation of 
biomedical research data sets.
 *   Training and Workforce Development. These awards support the education and 
training of current and future generations of researchers who will specialize 
in data science fields, as well as those whose work may require certain 
expertise in the use of or generation of large amounts of data and data 

The BD2K initiative, launched in December 2013, is a trans-NIH program with 
funding from all 27 institutes and centers, as well as the NIH Common Fund. 
NIH’s effort is being developed in the context of a number of related projects 
elsewhere in the world, including those under development in the United Kingdom 
and Australia, and by the European Union. There is great interest in 
communication and collaboration among those involved in this international 
effort to enable scientists around the world to contribute to advances in 
understanding health and disease, and ultimately to improve diagnoses, 
treatment and prevention.

For more information about the recipients of the new grants, please visit 

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