Informatics and Computing team wins $900,000 National Institute of Health grant


The National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institute of Health awarded a research team from the School of Informatics and Computing a $900,000 grant over the next three years for their research entitled “Privacy preserving technologies for human genome data analysis and dissemination.”

The group, lead by associate professors XiaoFeng Wang and Haixu Tang, seeks to address the issue of privacy in human genomic data by studying and developing a suite of innovative techniques to protect the data in a practical and cost-effective manner.

Data are expected to be used by healthcare practitioners and researchers, but needs to be protected to the highest possible level.

“Nothing is more sensitive than genomic data. It is a typical kind of big data. Protecting patient privacy in analyzing and disseminating such data have always been challenging. ” said Wang of the value of this research.

The proposed research aims to study secure data techniques to enable privacy-preserving elastic computing on genomic data. The group also plans to build centralized data analysis services to ensure secure release of results.

“The goal of the project is to build practical privacy-enhancing techniques that enable the sharing of human genomic data in a broad biomedical community”, said Tang.

The IU team has gained an international reputation for their research in genomic privacy.  They won the 2011 Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies, a top privacy research award, for their work in this area.

A portion of the grant will be subcontracted to the iDASH, a National Center for Biomedical Computing at University of California, San Diego.  The center is also funded by NIH, and directed by Professor Lucila Ohno-Machado, Associate Dean of Informatics of the School of Medicine and the chair of the Division of Biomedical Informatics at UCSD, who joined by Xiaoqian Jiang, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics will lead the UCSD team on the project.

The National Human Genome Research Institute began as the National Center for Human Genome Research (NCHGR), which was established in 1989 to carry out the role of the NIH in the International Human Genome Project (HGP). The HGP was developed in collaboration with the United States Department of Energy and begun in 1990 to map the human genome, which was complete in 2003. In 1997 the United States Department of Health and Human Services renamed NCHGR the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), officially elevating it to the status of research institute - one of 27 institutes and centers that make up the NIH.

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