NIH Showcases Informatics Researchers As New Open Source Ventures Launch

Anthony Brino | Government Health IT | November 9, 2012

After the National Institutes of Health grew interested in bioinformatics, following breakthroughts in the 1990s, the National Centers for Biomedical Computing were created with the goal of advancing the field by a few leaps and bounds, because IT systems hadn’t quite caught up to molecular biology.

The nine centers were founded through the 2000s, and with the advent of new data processing and visualization tools, there's been "an explosion of knowledge" in biomedical research, said Brian Athey, from the University of Michigan Medical School’s National Center for Integrative Bio Informatics (NCIBI).

When NCIBI was created in 2005, "we had some kind of architecture of the genome, but it was still pretty new,” Athey said. NCIBI and other centers have since developed software and applications that have led to findings in areas such as prostate cancer progression, organ-specific complications of type 1 and 2 diabetes, bipolar disorder, the metabolic of obesity and dozens of other biological problem areas. As the field evolves, so are the research insitutions. NCIBI, Stanford's oncology center and Harvard's I2B2 code set project are moving to the tranSMART project, an international, open source consortium with funding from the European Union, pharmaceutical companies and other organizations.