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Money for Big Data

To help researchers handle the onslaught of complex biomedical data being generated, the US National Institutes of Health this week awarded grants worth nearly $32 million that seek to develop new data-handling strategies, as GenomeWeb Daily News reports. These grants are part of the Big Data to Knowledge initiative that expects to fund $656 million through 2020 toward this problem.

"Data creation in today's research is exponentially more rapid than anything we anticipated even a decade ago," NIH Director Francis Collins says in a statement. "Mammoth data sets are emerging at an accelerated pace in today's biomedical research and these funds will help us overcome the obstacles to maximizing their utility. The potential of these data, when used effectively, is quite astounding."

The grants awarded this week fall into four broad categories, the Chronicle of Higher Education notes: tackling computing challenges and creating systems to index large amounts of data as well as developing career and training approaches and creating course materials.

For instance, the Los Angeles Times reports that researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles and others received an initial $1.5 million grant to search for protein markers for cardiovascular disease, and researchers at the University of Southern California are forming the ENIGMA Center for Medicine, Imaging, and Genomics to bring together more than 300 scientists from 33 countries to sort through their datasets to try to find factors linked to diseases like autism, multiple sclerosis, and schizophrenia, among other diseases.

"The future of biomedical research is about assimilating data across biological scales from molecules to populations," Philip Bourne the associate director for data science at NIH adds in a statement. "As such, the health of each one of us is a big data problem.