USC wins $22.2 million grant for national informatics clearinghouse

January 26, 2009

The University of Southern California will be the new central clearinghouse for an ambitious ongoing national project to collect and integrate a wide range of biomedical data to make them more accessible to physicians and researchers.

The University of Southern California will be the new central clearinghouse for an ambitious ongoing national project to collect and integrate a wide range of biomedical data to make them more accessible to physicians and researchers.

The National Center for Research Resources, a component institute of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded USC a major grant to support the Biomedical Informatics Research Network Coordinating Center (BIRNCC) at USC.

Carl Kesselman, Ph.D., a professor of systems engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and the USC Information Sciences Institute, will lead the five-year $22.2 million task to revamp and update a critical element of an evolving NIH effort to improve access to the exploding volumes of biomedical research information.

BIRNCC brings together a network of researchers developing bioinformatics tools for the broader scientific community. USC is the lead partner on the project, which includes collaborations with the University of California, Los Angeles, UC Irvine, the University of Chicago, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

The Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN) is part of NIH's National Center for Research Resources. BIRN collects biomedical imaging data from institutions all over the country, currently with a heavy emphasis on neuroscience. The BIRNCC has the task of facilitating collaboration and data sharing among the research centers.

BIRNCC will help ensure that important innovations reach society. As it stands, medical researchers develop many discoveries and therapies that never connect with people because of the overwhelming quantity of data that geneticists and others produce. BIRNCC will create a nationwide computer network that facilitates collaborative biomedical research.

NCRR's Biomedical Informatics Research Network helps connect scientists nationwide to share data and refine analytic tools that can be used for multisite data integration, according to Michael T. Marron, Ph.D., director of the NCRR Division of Biomedical Technology, in a release.

"Without a sophisticated bioinformatics capability -- which only top engineers can provide -- we cannot hope to translate the basic science into drugs and treatments that will improve the quality of life," Kesselman said. "BIRNCC can accelerate the rate of discoveries for many areas of biomedical research."

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