By Cindy Foster

UNM Health Sciences Center participating in NIH Data Commons initiative

Pilot project aids in research data sharing

The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (HSC) has been chosen to participate in a National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative to create the NIH Data Commons, a cloud-based virtual lab that will allow institutions to share research data, tools and applications.

The modern research world generates vast amounts of quality research data but too often, it is inaccessible to researchers at different institutions, said Tudor Oprea, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and chief of the Translational Informatics Division at the UNM HSC.

"The NIH Data Commons goal is to remove those barriers so scientists can access the data for a variety of research projects," he said.

According to the NIH, UNM HSC will participate in a pilot being led by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and its research foundation, the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI). The pilot was one of 12 Data Commons Pilot Phase awards totaling $9 million recently granted through the agency.

UNM HSC is receiving $251,000 to participate in the pilot phase, said Oprea.

Oprea said the UNM team will work jointly with the Jackson Laboratory, the University of North Carolina and Oregon Health and Science University to process animal and human data, including clinical data to gain better insights on the role of sex as a biological variable, also known as sexual dimorphism, in human health.

"The NIH Data Commons Pilot Phase gives us the opportunity to study the impact of sexual dimorphism in human disease," said Oprea.

"Harvesting the wealth of information in biomedical data will advance our understanding of human health and disease," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, in an NIH media release. "However, poor data accessibility is a major barrier to translating data into understanding. The NIH Data Commons Pilot Phase is an important effort to remove that barrier."

"We live in a time when digital biomedical data are ubiquitous, but the challenge is extracting value from those data in ways that lead to scientific breakthroughs and innovations in health care delivery," said Stan Ahalt, PhD, director of RENCI and lead principal investigator for the project.

For more information on the NIH Data Commons Pilot Phase, see

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