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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Northwestern and Partners Create a National Center for Digital Innovation

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Program in Public Health, in partnership with Oregon Health & Science University, University of Washington, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Sage Bionetworks, has been awarded a five-year $25M cooperative agreement from the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS) to create a new CTSA Program National Center for Data to Health (CD2H). This award will coalesce and coordinate informatics activities across the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Program, a network of more than 50 medical research institutions, to provide collaborative clinical and translational research infrastructure.

The new CTSA Program National Center for Data to Health will be led by Dr. Melissa Haendel (OHSU), Dr. Kristi Holmes (Northwestern University), Dr. Sean Mooney (University of Washington), Dr. Christopher Chute (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), and John Wilbanks (Sage Bionetworks). These institutions, together with The Scripps Research Institute, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Iowa, and The Jackson Laboratory will work with CTSA Program hubs and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health to launch the CD2H.

“The new National Center for Data to Health offers an opportunity to catalyze the cultural and technological changes necessary for data and informatics to fundamentally impact research and health care,” describes Dr. Kristi Holmes, associate professor in the department of preventive medicine, director of evaluation at NUCATS, and director of the Galter Health Sciences Library & Learning Center at Feinberg School of Medicine, who is a co-director of the new center. “As scientific research is transformed by big data, high-performance computing, and real-time publishing, the structure and composition of scientific teamwork is also changing. Here we aim to grow the data and informatics-based architecture needed to support interdisciplinary teams so that diverse contributions are valued and recognized — enhancing knowledge transfer, discovery, and impact on health.”

The CD2H will be tasked with several priorities to support a vibrant and evolving informatics ecosystem, including: support and enhancement of a collaborative informatics community; development of Good Data Practice (GDP); promotion of software standards for interoperability; growth of collaborative innovation across informatics tools, methods, and processes; advancement of cutting edge biomedical research informatics; data science education for CTSA Program researchers; and novel methods and tools for the evaluation of the impact of these activities to enhance health care through data and informatics.

Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research and director of the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (NUCATS) explained the impact of this program. “Today’s researchers and physicians can leverage data and technology in ways never before imagined possible. Critical infrastructure, such as our own Northwestern Medicine Enterprise Data Warehouse, powers transformative research, clinical trials, clinical quality improvement, health care operations, and medical education initiatives — enabling us to truly realize the vision of a vibrant learning healthcare system. A strong, collaborative national informatics infrastructure is a critical component to support this work and drive healthcare and research to the next level. We are thrilled for Northwestern to play a leadership role on this important effort.”

The newly created center will focus on creating and harnessing an ecosystem for translational scientists to discover and share their software, data, and other research resources within the CTSA Program network. The CD2H also creates a social coding environment for translational science institutions, leveraging the community-driven DREAM challenges as a mechanism to stimulate innovation. Collaborative innovation also serves as a strong foundation to support mechanisms to facilitate training, engagement, scholarly dissemination, and impact across the CTSA Program hubs and beyond.

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