University of Southern California awarded $22,2 million NIH national biomedical informatics infrastructure co-ordinating centre contract

Los Angeles 21 January 2009The University of Southern California (USC) will be the new central clearing house for an ambitious ongoing national project to collect and integrate a wide range of biomedical data to make it more accessible to physicians and researchers. The National Center for Research Resources, a component institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded USC a major grant to support the Biomedical Informatics Research Network Coordinating Center (BIRNCC) at USC.


Professor Carl Kesselman of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and the USC Information Sciences Institute (ISI) will lead the five-year, $22,2 million task to revamp and update a critical element of an evolving National Institutes of Health 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 (UCLA), U.C. 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 (NCRR). BIRN collects biomedical imaging data from institutions all over the country, currently with a heavy emphasis on neuroscience. The BIRN co-ordinating centre has the task of facilitating collaboration and data sharing between the research centres.

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 nation-wide computer network that facilitates collaborative biomedical research.

"Every day, NCRR's Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN) helps connect scientists with their colleagues nationwide to share data and refine analytic tools that can be used for multi-site data integration", stated Michael T. Marron, Ph.D., director, NCRR Division of Biomedical Technology. "Our BIRN partners are essential to advancing technologies including new software-based solutions, which are crucial to discoveries that have broad applicability to biomedical research."

"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", stated Carl Kesselman. "BIRNCC can accelerate the rate of discoveries for many areas of biomedical research."

"The new BIRN contract is an outstanding example of how the Viterbi School, and ISI in particular, are building from strengths to become a leader at the intersection of engineering and medicine", stated Viterbi School Dean Yannis Yortsos.

"This grant is enormously significant - not only for what it says about USC and its research, but for what it will do for our society", stated USC Provost C. L. Max Nikias. Provost Nikias praised the leadership of Randolph Hall, USC vice provost for research advancement, and Steven Moldin, USC executive director of research advancement. "They worked closely with Professor Kesselman, and did an exceptional job pushing the proposal forward", he stated.

Source: University of Southern California

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