NIH Moving Forward With Big Data Initiative, Officials Say

July 18, 2014 in News

NIH is enlisting the help of industry stakeholders to access and analyze the value of biomedical data through its Big Data to Knowledge initiative, according an article by NIH officials published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, Health IT Analytics reports (Bresnick, Health IT Analytics, 7/14).


According to NIH, the use of biomedical data often is limited because of a lack of:

  • Tools;
  • Accessibility; and
  • Training.

The BD2K initiative aims to maximize the value of increasingly complex and large biomedical data sets (iHealthBeat, 7/23/13).

Details of Article

In the article, NIH officials write that BD2K’s future involves engaging a variety of stakeholders, such as:

  • Biomedical researchers;
  • Citizens;
  • Clinicians;
  • Data scientists; and
  • Publishers.

The initiative will focus on:

  • Creating data-discovery capabilities for biomedical data;
  • Designing studies and conducting data analyses to address big data issues; and
  • Training big data practitioners.

Initial efforts include developing a Data Discovery Index, in which stakeholders are called on to conduct short-term trials to find the best practices for indexing existing datasets (Hall, FierceHealthIT, 7/11).

“Inherent in data discovery is the need for a sustainable and scalable plan to create and maintain a discovery system that allows researchers to readily find and cite biomedical data,” the authors write, adding, “Indeed, sustainability and scalability are two intertwined issues that must be addressed in order for the advances made possible by BD2K to have a lasting effect.”

They note that the creation of a DDI is a “necessary first step,” and will “enable the discover[y] of relevant, existing datasets through the use of metadata and index terms.”

BD2K will offer workshops and grants, as well as foster targeted requests for information and conversations among thought leaders, the article states (Health IT Analytics, 7/14).

NIH Awards Grant for Drug Interaction Database

In related news, NIH’s National Canter for Advancing Translational Sciences has awarded Pennsylvania-based Reaction Biology a grant to develop a database of epigenetic drug interactions.

According to Health Data Management, the grant will help fund the analysis of interactions between more than 1,400 FDA-approved drugs and more than 30 epigenetic modifying enzymes. The resulting data will be used to create guidelines that researchers can use in creating new drug compounds to treat conditions with known epigenetic mediators, such as some cancers and neurodegenerative problems.

The project will begin immediately and last 12 months (Goth, Health Data Management, 7/9).

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