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New Informatics and Bioimaging Center combines resources, expertise from UMD, UMB

ADELPHI, Md. A new center that combines advanced computing resources at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) with clinical data and biomedical expertise at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) could soon revolutionize the efficiency and effectiveness of health care in the state of Maryland and beyond.

The Center for Health-related Informatics and Bioimaging (CHIB) announced today joins computer scientists, life scientists, engineers, physicists, biostatisticians and others at the College Park campus with imaging specialists, physicians, clinicians and additional health experts in Baltimore.

These cross-institutional teams will work on projects that apply major advances in computing power to grand challenges in genomics, health records management and in analyzing massive amounts of data available from new imaging technologies.

Ultimately, officials say, the research at CHIB will advance the concept of personalized medicine, where decisions and practices are tailored to individual patients through the use of genetic sequencing and other biomedical information.

"This is exactly the type of collaborative science, leveraging the strengths of each institution, we anticipated when launching MPowering the State last spring," says UMD President Wallace Loh.

MPowering the State is the strategic partnership between UMD and UMB intended to significantly expand research collaborations, business development and student opportunities at both institutions.

"Our cross-institutional researchers, together with our clinicians, are helping open the doors to personalized medicine," says UMB President Jay A. Perman. "CHIB is going to help us move more quickly from basic research to therapeutics to patient care. As a physician, I'm excited about what this will mean for health care in Maryland and the region."

Leadership of the joint center will be split between the two campuses: Amitabh Varshney, professor of computer science and director of the university's Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), will lead efforts in College Park; Owen White, associate director for bioinformatics at the Institute of Genome Sciences and professor in the School of Medicine, will direct CHIB activities in Baltimore.

"There's been a surge of new data related to genomics and proteins," says Varshney. "We believe our computing resources at UMIACS can help our colleagues in Baltimore identify specific disease markers to address serious health concerns like cancer, diabetes or autism."

The new center will take full advantage of recent discoveries in science and technology. CHIB will benefit from significant advances in computing power over the past decade, including the development of multicore systems and cloud computing, as well as new methods of organizing, visualizing and analyzing massive amounts of data derived from high-throughput laboratory systems.

Using these approaches, CHIB will play a central role in facilitating genomic research, medical information management and translational science development.

"The School of Medicine and Institute of Genome Sciences bring together multidisciplinary teams of researchers who are taking cutting-edge research and translating this knowledge into diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics," says UMB's White.

Researchers say the wealth of patient data available at Baltimore's medical school allows an unprecedented opportunity to link basic biological data and clinical concepts that can be used to improve diagnostic efforts and patient care.

The CHIB branch at College Park, housed within UMIACS, is supported by almost $1 million in seed funding from the provost's office, the Division of Research and colleges and schools whose research faculty are involved. A similar funding mechanism at UMB will support efforts in Baltimore.

"The new center strengthens our mission of using a truly multidisciplinary approach in addressing grand challenges in medicine and health care," says Jayanth Banavar, dean of UMD's College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, which provided part of the startup funding for the CHIB in College Park.

It is expected that the cross-institutional CHIB teams will secure additional federal funding from the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation as research efforts move forward, says Patrick O'Shea, UMD's vice president for research and chief research officer. "The federal agencies recognize, just as we do, that transformational discoveries demand a dedicated, multifaceted approach," he says.

There are also plans for researchers at CHIB to leverage the region's bioscience/biotech strengths to commercialize any new technologies they discover.

"The state of Maryland is already home to one of the largest bioscience clusters in the country, and a significant portion of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry is within a few hours of these universities," says Bruce Jarrell, senior vice president and chief academic and research officer at UMB. "By continuing to intertwine the research and clinical resources of our universities, we can provide fuel for the growth of the commercial health-care sector."

Contact: Ellen Ternes
University of Maryland

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