Carl Kesselman to help develop a powerful national NIH Data Commons Platform

November 7, 2017

Carl Kesselman, a research director with USC's Information Sciences Institute (ISI), is participating in the pilot phase of an ambitious new National Institutes of Health (NIH) data initiative to make it simpler for scientists to share and manage research data online.

The NIH Data Commons, a shared virtual space where scientists can work with the digital objects of biomedical research, has launched a four-year pilot phase announced Nov. 6.

“Harvesting the wealth of information in biomedical data will advance our understanding of human health and disease,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins in a news release. “However, poor data accessibility is a major barrier to translating data into understanding. The NIH Data Commons Pilot Phase is an important effort to remove that barrier.”

Supported by 12 awards totaling $9 million, the goal of the pilot project is to accelerate biomedical discoveries by creating a virtual, cloud-based platform where researchers can easily access, work with, and share data and scientific tools.

Kesselman, Professor in the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Professor of Computer Science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, will partner with the University of Chicago on one of the projects funded by the new grant.

“I feel very proud to be part of this national-scale program, which is defining the future of data management,” says Kesselman, whose research focuses on developing large-scale computational infrastructure for scientists.

“What we’re doing has the potential to be hugely transformational and impactful in advancing scientific understanding by making data-gathering more effective, reliable and accessible.”

The team will leverage DERIVA, a cloud-based system developed at ISI that aims to help scientists manage big scientific data as easily as pictures on a cell phone. DERIVA is currently being used by several international research collaborations, including FaceBase, an initiative to help advance research in craniofacial development and malformation.

Kesselman, whose software has played a role in major scientific breakthroughs such the discovery of the Higgs boson, is part of the new USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience—a 190,000 square-foot research facility supported by a $50-million gift from Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson.