| NIH Provides $32.8 Million to Enhance Biomedical
Informatics Research Network
Bethesda, Maryland The National Center for Research Resources (NCRR),
a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced
today it will provide $32.8 million in additional funding to enhance
its Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN). The University
of California San Diego Medical School will receive $18.8 million
over five years, while Massachusetts General Hospital will be granted
nearly $14 million for three years of support. BIRN is an NIH initiative
involving a consortium of 15 universities and 22 research groups
that fosters collaborations in biomedical science by utilizing information
technology innovations. BIRN's initial three test bed projects focus
on brain imaging of human neurological disorders and associated
||(At left) Sample data from Stanford's 3T MRI system shows the global
response to holding one's breath for 15 seconds. The entire gray
matter volume is activated in each subject by the breath-holding
(High-resolution image courtesy of Gary Glover and Lara Foland, Stanford University.)
"Information technology offers tremendous potential to advance
our ability to diagnose and treat disease," said NCRR Director
Judith L. Vaitukaitis, M.D. "BIRN's powerful and flexible
approaches to data integration are designed to accommodate the
of scientific inquiry and to allow novel discoveries that incorporate
knowledge across scale and even across species. With this additional
investment in the BIRN consortium, we hope to provide researchers
with networked analytical tools that will greatly advance our
of neurological disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, and
BIRN's charter is to create an environment encouraging biomedical
scientists and clinical researchers to make new discoveries by facilitating
sharing, analysis, visualization, and data comparisons across laboratories.
A central premise of the BIRN cyberinfrastructure is that the physical
location of data and resources should not hamper a research study.
BIRN's data integration framework builds on the National Partnership
for Advanced Computational Infrastructure, supported by the National
BIRN consists of four parts:
- The Function BIRN is working to understand the underlying causes
of schizophrenia and to develop new treatments for the disease.
The goal is to determine the role of frontal and temporal lobe
dysfunction in schizophrenia, and to assess the impact of treatments
on functional brain abnormalities.
- The Brain Morphometry BIRN is investigating whether brain structural
differences correlate to symptoms such as memory dysfunction or
depression and whether specific structural differences distinguish
- The Mouse BIRN is examining animal models of multiple sclerosis,
schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease, ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder), Tourette's Syndrome and brain cancer. Researchers are
studying animal models of disease at different anatomical scales
to test hypotheses associated with human neurological disorders.
- The BIRN Coordinating Center (BIRN-CC) develops, implements,
and supports the information technology infrastructure necessary
to achieve distributed collaborations and data sharing among the
test bed participants.
Although all three test beds involve some aspect of neuroimaging,
the problems that they are addressing are common throughout biomedical
research and the solutions will be applicable outside the individual
fields represented in the test beds. For example, BIRN is using
these initial test bed studies to drive the construction and daily
use of a federated data sharing environment that presents biological
data held at geographically separate sites as a single, unified
database. To this end, the BIRN program is rapidly producing tools
and technologies that enable the aggregation of data from virtually
any laboratory's research program to the BIRN data federation system,
independent of the biological problem being addressed.
Lessons learned and best practices are continuously collected and
made available to help new collaborative efforts make efficient
use of this infrastructure at an increasingly rapid pace. These
tools and best practices are intended to maximize the extent to
which the infrastructure being developed can quickly be deployed
to support the greater biomedical research community.
More information about BIRN is available at http://www.nbirn.net.
NCRR is part of the National Institutes of Health, an agency
of the Department of Health and Human Services. NCRR is the nation's
leading federal sponsor of resources that enable advances in many
areas of biomedical research. NCRR support provides the scientific
research community with access to a diverse array of biomedical
research technologies, instrumentation, specialized basic and clinical
research facilities, animal models, genetic stocks, and such biomaterials
as cell lines, tissues, and organs. Additional information about
NCRR can be found at www.ncrr.nih.gov.