Kesselman Awarded $22.2M NIH National BioMedical Informatics Infrastructure Coordinating Center Contract

January 23, 2009

The USC Viterbi School's Information Sciences Institute 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.

Professor Carl Kesselman of the Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and 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 UCLA, U.C. Irvine, the University of Chicago, and Massachusetts General Hospital. With this grant, USC is positioned to become a leader in the emerging field of bioinformatics, which is the computerized analysis of biological data.

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 BIRN coordinating center has the task of facilitating collaboration and data sharing between 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 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," said 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," said 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," said 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," said Provost C. L. Max Nikias. "It also underscores the tremendous value of our Office of Research Advancement in Washington, D.C. Without this office, USC would not have competed for this grant, and this multi-university collaboration would never have been assembled."

Nikias also praised the leadership of Randolph Hall, vice provost for research advancement, and Steven Moldin, executive director of research advancement. "They worked closely with Professor Kesselman, and did an exceptional job pushing the proposal forward," he said. "Professor Kesselman's research is absolutely world-class. They understood its importance, and made this grant happen."