UCLA has opened a new research institute with the goal of unlocking the promise of big data in basic and applied biomedicine.

The Institute for Quantitative and Computational Biosciences will employ multidisciplinary research to study how molecules and genes interact. Its goal: unlocking the biological basis of health and disease by tapping the power of big data and computational modeling.

In addition, UCLA has established a doctoral program in bioinformatics, and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, in which UCLA is one of four partner institutions, is at the forefront of utilizing big data in clinical care—including developing new pharmaceuticals and bringing new discoveries into the community.

Much of the data UCLA faculty will work with will come from the University of California Research eXchange, which manages an extremely large repository of clinical data—more than 12 million patient records. UCReX is in the process of adding millions of additional records through partnerships with other Los Angeles medical institutions and, eventually, other academic medical centers in California and throughout the U.S.

Institute director Alexander Hoffmann said that in the past one of the major challenges in biology research was generating data.

“Now, the challenge is how to make sense of a tsunami of scientific data, to discover the critical patterns and to tell the signal from the noise,” he said. “The opportunities to develop accurate predictions are unprecedented. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. The power of combining big data computational tools with computational modeling based on hard basic science is leading a revolution in the bio- and health sciences that provides unimagined opportunities to humanity.”

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