Scientific consortium collaborates on NIH cloud computing platform to accelerate biomedical discoveries

RTI International adds expertise in bioinformatics, cloud computing and data security


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC —The rise of “Big Data” presents many challenges for biomedical researchers as they strive to advance scientific knowledge and discoveries. One example is the need for a cloud-based platform to host and support analysis on valuable, and potentially underutilized, research data sets. Today, NIH announced a new, four-year Data Commons Pilot Phase designed to help explore the feasibility and best practices for making digital objects available through collaborative platforms. 

As part of a public/private scientific consortium supporting NIH’s new Data Commons Pilot Phase, RTI International, a nonprofit research institute with deep strength in bioinformatics research, and Federal Information & Information System Assessment moderate security, along with the Renaissance Computing Institute, a technology research institute based at UNC-Chapel Hill, will work to drive scientific innovation through access to high-value data in this US-centric project.

“We are proud and excited to participate in NIH’s new Data Commons Pilot Phase as it represents a foray into a new way of conducting and disseminating biomedical research,” stated Rebecca Boyles, program manager, bioinformatics at RTI. “From cloud computing to research security, our experts stand ready to help NIH extract value from the digital projects of biomedical research.” 

A Data Commons is a way to share and provide access to digital objects (such as data and tools) and make digital objects available in the cloud. The focus is on making data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable.

Specifically, the RTI team will support four key parts of the Data Commons Pilot Phase, including Cloud Agnostic Architectures and Frameworks; Workspaces for Computation; Research Ethics, Privacy and Security (including Authentication and Authorization); and Scientific Use Cases. Initial prototyping work will be done over a 180-day period.

RTI’s work on the NIH Data Commons Pilot Phase is supported under award number: 1OT3OD025464-01.

“Harvesting the wealth of information in biomedical data will advance our understanding of human health and disease,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “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.”