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New grant will allow researchers to house COVID-19 data

Written By: Jeannette Sanchez | Updated: February 2, 2021
Researchers with UTHealth have received a $4 million grant to collect COVID-19 data from researchers across the country to develop a data coordinating center. (Photo by Getty Images)

Cropped shot of a male computer programmer working late in the office on a new code

A $4 million subcontract grant for scientists to collect COVID-19 data from virus researchers across the country in order to develop a data coordinating center has been awarded to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Biomedical Informatics.

The $4 million subcontract grant is part of a $23 million grant awarded to the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego), led by Lucila Ohno-Machado, MD, PhD, and Eliah Aronoff-Spencer, MD, PhD, at UC San Diego.

The collaboration between UC San Diego and UTHealth will bring together data scientists and infectious diseases specialists who will regulate viral samples, COVID-19 testing and procedures, and data in order to integrate and share information in a timely manner. The team led by Hua Xu, PhD, professor and director of the Center for Computational Biomedicine at UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics, will be responsible for building the data-sharing platform.

“We will be receiving data and organizing this information to make it easily accessible to other researchers as well as understandable to the public,” Xu said. “We are excited about this project. This grant will allow us to expand our capabilities and I hope through this data platform we can accelerate the development of diagnostic testing for COVID-19.”

Researchers will disseminate data from 48 funded projects under the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics – Radical (RADx-rad) program, including studies on at-home testing efficacy, wastewater analysis, next generation sequencing, and real-time tracing or detection of the virus.

“Dr. Xu is a national leader in biomedical informatics research and development,” said Jiajie Zhang, PhD, dean and The Glassell Family Foundation Distinguished Chair in Informatics Excellence of the School of Biomedical Informatics. “The data center established by this grant will provide an unparalleled platform for researchers, clinicians, public health professionals, policy makers, and patients to better understand and manage the COVID pandemic for the short- and long-term.”

The project is funded by the National Institutes of Health (RFA-OD-20-019).

Additional co-investigators with the School of Biomedical Informatics on this project include Elmer Bernstam, MD, MS; Jingcheng Du, PhD; Xiaoqian Jiang, PhD; and Kirk Roberts, PhD, MS. Investigators from McGovern Medical School at UTHealth include Bernstam and Guo-Qiang Zhang, PhD, MS. Bernstam is also on faculty of MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

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