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Vandy, UT Dallas to Use NIH Grant for Data Integration, Privacy

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health has granted $1 million to Vanderbilt University to fund a collaboration between researchers at Vanderbilt's School of Medicine and the University of Texas, Dallas, to develop bioinformatics technologies and techniques for use in integrating and protecting patients' genomic data privacy.

Funded by the National Library of Medicine, the four-year, Vanderbilt-led research program will develop technologies that will enable disparate researchers to file information with a centralized biomedical databank that can be monitored for privacy violations.

The principal investigator on the grant is Brad Malin, an assistant professor of biomedical informatics in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and he is collaborating with Murat Kantarcioglu, an assistant professor of computer science at the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at UT Dallas.

The program will focus on three central parts. It aims to build the main tool to integrate research patients' records from different organizations; to construct methods for collecting, storing, and analyzing biomedical data without revealing individual records; and to detect and prevent policy violations that can arise as a consequence of queries made to the databank.

"Though policy and technical approaches for biomedical records privacy exist, they are inappropriate for environments that consolidate records from multiple organizations," Kantarcioglu said in a statement from UT Dallas.

Kantarcioglu said this is important because the potential for genomics advances in medicine lies in the ability to analyze large combined stores of data that come from many different institutions and research studies.

"But the availability of such databanks for widespread use is contingent on protecting the anonymity of the individuals who correspond to the shared records," he pointed out.

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