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International Neuroscience Data Effort Launches Under Global Alliance for Genomics and Health

NEW YORK – The Global Alliance for Genomics and Health and the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF) said Friday that they have partnered to build what they are calling the Neuroscience Community, aimed at connecting global neuroscience and genomic data.

One of several "communities of interest" founded by GA4GH in recent years, the new neuroscience effort aims to support the development of best practices and improved standards for the generation and use of patient data.

Randy McIntosh, coleader of the new GA4GH & INCF Neuroscience Community and professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, said in a statement that data sharing will be essential to support new genomic discoveries in the neurologic disease space.

"To fully understand just one neurological patient or research participant, you need brain images, genomic sequences, gene expression data, socio-cultural factors, test results showing how they metabolize drugs, their overall health history … Then add a detailed work-up of their phenotype, or the traits, behaviors, and symptoms they show," he said. "Now multiply that amount of data by thousands of people, which you need to get real predictive power in a study."

Efforts to collate and harmonize data in this vein have already begun, but the new partnership aims to ensure that future standards development efforts "progress together and lead to the best possible science," added Mathew Abrams, director of science and training for the INCF.

Participants include the Brain Research International Data Governance & Exchange Program (BRIDGE), which is working with partners in Brazil, the US, South Africa, Switzerland, and the UK to develop resources for governing neuroscience data.

Other partners include the Autism Sharing Initiative, which has worked with software company DNAstack to develop an artificial intelligence system tuned for autism and other neuroscience datasets.

The Ontario Brain Institute, another member, features the Brain-CODE platform, which hosts clinical data from more than 20,000 people including concussion, mental health, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative history.