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San Diego Researchers to Receive $4.4 Million in NIH Initiative to Harness ‘Goldmines’ in Biomedical Data

LA JOLLA, CA ­– October 9, 2014 – San Diego researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) will receive more than $4.4 million as part of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative called “Big Data to Knowledge” (BD2K).

The funding will be part of a new Center for Excellence for Big Data Computing at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), one of the 12 new centers nationwide announced today by the NIH. Over the course of the four-year grant, TSRI will receive roughly $3.8 million and STSI, more than $600,000.

“Today’s biomedical research is generating a huge amount of data,” said Andrew Su, a TSRI associate professor and faculty member at STSI who is a co-director of the new center. “In fields such as genomics and proteomics, researchers require increasingly powerful tools to make sense of their findings and extract valuable information that could lead to improvements in human health.”

With the new grant, the center will set up platforms that enable the scientific community and the public to collectively and collaboratively mine data. While in the world of scarce data it might have made sense for labs to keep hard-won data close to the vest, in today’s world of ”big data” Su believes a single lab can often benefit from a more open approach that can reveal hidden links to other areas of biology.

The current project will also accelerate one of his lab’s research efforts to create a “citizen science” platform to organize biomedical knowledge. His research has shown that the general public can effectively contribute to this effort by reading scientific abstracts and highlighting biomedical concepts.

“The scientific community can build off of this centralized database, instead of having everyone reinventing the wheel,” said Su. He added that this project could be especially important for collecting scattered data on rare diseases.

The new center also will tap into the Scripps Wellderly Genome Resource (SWGR), a reference DNA dataset built by researchers at STSI, led by Director of Genome Informatics Ali Torkamani, from the whole genome sequences of participants in the Wellderly Study. All of those participants have lived at least 80 years without developing any chronic disease, making the SWGR stand out from other genetic references.

Because the SWGR contains information from a long-living, healthy population, it can serve as a control group for a wide range of genomic studies of most late-onset adult diseases.

“The future of medicine is about dealing with each individual’s big data, which we never had before,” said Director of STSI Eric Topol, M.D., who is also professor of genomics and Gary and Mary West Endowed Chair of Innovative Medicine at TSRI and chief academic officer of Scripps Health. “We are thrilled to be part of the Big Data to Knowledge NIH consortium to advance this vital mission.”

In addition to UCLA, TSRI and STSI (which is a collaboration between TSRI and Scripps Health), the new center, directed by Professor Peipei Ping of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, will include scientists at the European Bioinformatics Institute, University of Mississippi Medical Center and Sage Bionetworks.

The number of the grant is 1U54 GM114833.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is one of the world's largest independent, not-for-profit organizations focusing on research in the biomedical sciences. TSRI is internationally recognized for its contributions to science and health, including its role in laying the foundation for new treatments for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, and other diseases. An institution that evolved from the Scripps Metabolic Clinic founded by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps in 1924, the institute now employs about 2,700 people on its campuses in La Jolla, CA, and Jupiter, FL, where its renowned scientists—including two Nobel laureates—work toward their next discoveries. The institute's graduate program, which awards PhD degrees in biology and chemistry, ranks among the top ten of its kind in the nation. For more information, see

About Scripps Translational Science Institute

Part of San Diego, Calif.-based Scripps Health, the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) is a unique community collaboration with major programs in digital health and genomics research, and physician education-training which bridge science with medicine and academia with industry.  STSI is supported by the NIH flagship Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program, which was granted to The Scripps Research Institute in conjunction with its collaboration with STSI.  In addition to Scripps Health and The Scripps Research Institute, STSI also works with the San Diego Supercomputer Center and other research partners. More information can be found at

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