NLM funding expands training program to focus on big data

The National Library of Medicine has awarded the Ohio State College of Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Informatics $485,583 to expand its successful Clinical Research Informatics Training Program. Under the guidance of Principal Investigators Philip Payne, PhD, FACMI, and Ümit Çatalyürek, PhD, the National Institutes of Health-funded program focuses on translational bioinformatics and clinical research informatics—two specialties in high workforce demand that accelerate the evolution of scientific discoveries into clinical studies and new medical therapies for human diseases.

The funding—a supplement to the $1.1 million in NIH grants for the three-year-old CTRIP to date—will create a further specialized Multi-modeling and Integrative Data Analytics Training Program (MIDAs) for six pre-doctoral fellows who will focus on the application of “Big Data” principles to the CTRIP specializations. This is in addition to CTRIP’s three pre-doctoral translational bioinformatics fellows and three post-doctoral clinical research informatics fellows.

“Informatics helps turn biomedical data into knowledge and insights, and we’ve created these training programs to help turn trainees into informaticians capable of realizing this promise” says Department Chair Payne, who was an NLM fellow at Columbia University, and is also director of Translational Data Analytics @ Ohio State and Associate Director for Data Science in the Ohio State Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

CTRIP, one of only 14 such programs in the U.S., and MIDAs, one of only two funded supplements nationally, are responsive to the National Institutes of Health’s Precision Medicine Initiative that emphasizes exposing trainees to interdisciplinary, cross-application research. In addition to building core informatics competencies and groundings in human disease biology or clinical research methodology, the programs’ fellows conduct independent research with uncommon latitude in their choice of topic. While many pre-doctoral students must base their choice on the availability of funding for projects already in progress, CTRIP and MIDAs trainees can choose their faculty mentor based on compatibility of interests. The programs provide funds for tuition, stipends, health insurance, hardware, software and training travel.

The end result: Graduates of the programs enter the workforce fully prepared to design and apply network-based and multi-modeling analytics approaches to hypothesis generation and testing using large biomedical data sets.

“As the amount of data we’re capable of collecting grows, our need nationally and globally for people who can make sense of it increases exponentially,” says Çatalyürek, Professor and Vice Chair of Academic Affairs in the department and a world-renowned researcher in the field of high performance computing. “Our fellows are able to hit the ground running, ready to advance biomedical knowledge and treatments in ways we haven’t even thought of yet.”

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