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U of Chicago Receives Over $10M to Build Biomedical Data Hub, Support Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The University of Chicago has received over $10 million from two donors to fund the development of a biomedical research data hub and support research projects at the institution.

The university said this week that Karen and Jim Frank, president and CEO of Wheels Inc., have pledged a total of $10 million, $9 million of which will be used to launch a proposed Institute for Computational Biology and Medicine that will serve as a hub for collecting, analyzing, and distributing biomedical and healthcare information including genomic data and de-identified electronic medical records and to recruit a director. The remaining $1 million will support growth in orthopedics, the university said.

Meanwhile, Carole and Gordon Segal, the founders of Crate & Barrel, pledged an undisclosed amount to support the Pancreatic Cancer Genomic Medicine Initiative, which will use genetic information to improve assessment methods, decision-making, and treatment for pancreatic cancer patients.

The program aims to discover gene-based biomarkers to predict outcomes, estimate treatment toxicities, and to discover new drugs. Over the next three years, researchers will use the funds to sequence tumor genomes from up to 225 patients from the University of Chicago Medicine-NorthShore University HealthSystem pancreatic cancer program.

They plan to compare their data with tumor sequences that have already been collected by the National Cancer Institute and cross-reference it with physical and functional, as well as cognitive and psychological, information collected from patients during their care. They'll do this using Bionimbus — a cloud-based system for managing, analyzing, and sharing genomic data that was developed at the university's Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology.

"Our vision is to define disease at the genetic and molecular level with much greater specificity than is currently available," Kenneth Polonsky, EVP for medical affairs at the University of Chicago, said in a statement. "This will improve our ability to predict, prevent, diagnose, and treat different subsets of disease that, in many cases, we currently lump together. It will require access to gigantic data sets, innovative manipulation of those data, and vast computing power."

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