Six healthcare research centers are collaborating to develop a new resource center, supported by a centralized database to share data and find causes of pediatric cancer and structural birth defects.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is the lead organization, joining with the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the University of Chicago, Children’s National Health System, Oregon Health and Science University and Seven Bridges, a genomics research firm. The initiative will be known as the Kids First Pediatric Data Resource Center (DRC).

“Scientists are beginning to recognize the developmental biology connections between structural birth defects and pediatric cancers, and building on that shared understanding, we can now leverage new technologies, cloud computing and sophisticated algorithms for collaborative discovery to develop improved, less toxic therapies,” says Adam Resnick, PhD, director of the Center for Data Driven Discovery in Biomedicine at Children’s Hospital.

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The collaborative will give researchers access to large-scale genomic and clinical data across cancers and birth defects to a degree they have not previously enjoyed, along with working in a non-siloed environment.

Researchers will have access to search large genomic data sets using new data visualization tools and share information via a cloud platform. The goal is to identify genetic pathways that underlie and may link childhood cancer and birth defects such as heart problems, hearing loss and cleft palate.

Using de-identified data, researchers will capture clinical events in patients’ histories and link the events with their genomic data to capture the entire patient and translate the information back to clinical practice, Resnick adds.

The National Institutes of Health will fund the program with up to $14.8 million over five years.

Under the program, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research will build a portal and associated analytic tools; University of Chicago will manage and optimize large-scale genomic data processes; Children’s National Health System will handle administrative and outreach duties; Oregon Health and Science University will provide technology to support community standards and frameworks for reproducible genomic analysis; and Seven Bridges will further develop the analytics platform to provide access to data to the entire scientific community.

Further, the initiative also will work with consortia such as the Children’s Brain Tumor Consortium and the Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium to access data collected from more than 2,000 kids with brain tumors.

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