New platform for children's health issues

Investigators from the University of Chicago Medicine will play a central role in a five-year, $14.8 million effort by the National Institutes of Health, contingent upon available funding, to improve the understanding of inherited diseases.

The project, known as the Gabriella Miller Kids First pediatric data resource center, will be a multi-centered effort led by investigators at the Center for Data Driven Discovery in Biomedicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

Two crucial components of the Kids First project, however, are the teams led by Robert L. Grossman, PhD, and Sam Volchenboum, MD, PhD, at the University of Chicago. Grossman and Volchenboum will play a central role in the technical underpinnings of the large-scale processing and sharing of genomic and clinical data for this important initiative.

Grossman, the Frederick H. Rawson Professor in Medicine and Computer Science and director of the Center for Data Intensive Science at the University of Chicago, heads up an operations center that runs numerous data commons, supporting more than 20,000 researchers across the world every month.

“Platforms that enable researchers to analyze securely large amounts of de-identified clinical and genomic data are one of our most powerful tools for making discoveries that improve children’s lives,” Grossman said.

Grossman’s team is known for its work on the NCI’s Genomic Data Commons (GDC), a federally funded, unified data system that promotes sharing of cancer genomic and clinical data between researchers. The GDC is a core component of the National Institutes of Health’s Precision Medicine Initiative.

Grossman will work closely with Volchenboum, an expert in pediatric cancers and director of the Center for Research Informatics at UChicago. Volchenboum’s team developed the world’s first international pediatric cancer data commons, housing data on more than 19,000 neuroblastoma patients from around the world.

Under their leadership, the Chicago team of engineers and scientists will design and operate the cloud-based, open-source software needed to establish the data coordination center within the Kids First data resource center.

“This is a critical step forward for the pediatric oncology community,” Volchenboum said. “The Kids First data resource center will provide a much-needed resource for pediatric researchers to leverage a large set of genomic and clinical data on children. These data will help us understand why some children develop cancer and how to best stratify and treat their disease