U-M bioinformatics leader takes part in White House "Open Science" event

Drs. Athey and Omenn at White House
At the White House event, Dr. Athey (center) and U-M's Dr. Gilbert S. Omenn presented information about tranSMART. They are with Dr. Cristoph Brockel, Senior Director, Translational & Bioinformatics at Pfizer.

Yesterday in Washington, the White House shone a spotlight on free exchange of scientific information – a concept called “open science” that aims to accelerate the development of new treatments and technologies, and is a priority for federal research sponsors.
A U-M Medical School leader who has led open science initiatives for many years took part. Brian Athey, Ph.D., who chairs the Department of Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics, exhibited information about a new open science initiative at the White House event hosted by the Office of Science and Technology Policy. He was joined by Gilbert S. Omenn, M.D., Ph.D., director of the U-M Center for Computational Biomedicine and Informatics.

He has also led the National Center for Integrative Biomedical Informatics (NCIBI), which is funded by the National Institutes of Health and based at U-M. He has also served as an advisor to the chief information officer of the NIH.Athey’s open science experience includes his leadership of the National Library of Medicine’s Next-Generation Internet Visible Human Project, which created complete three-dimensional digital representations of the normal male and female human bodies, and the DARPA Virtual Soldier Project, which creates interpretable medical representations of soldiers’ physiology to guide combat medical treatment.

Athey is co-CEO of the new tranSMART Foundation, a nonprofit, global open-source public-private partnership. Omenn is chair of the foundation’s board of directors.
The foundation is working to create an informatics-based analysis and data-sharing cloud platform for clinical and translational research. It will allow scientists at universities, companies and agencies around the world to share pre-competitive data in a way that saves money and time in translating research findings into cures and diagnostic tools. transSMART offers tools originally developed by the NCIBI.
The drive for open science was accelerated this year by the OSTP director’s mandate that all federal agencies that fund research take steps to make the results of that research openly available within a year of publication.
“The reasons for sharing are many,” says Athey, “starting with the government funding of the production of the data in the first place. But beyond just making data available, we need to find ways to bring together heterogeneous kinds of data, from molecular and clinical studies, that will let us see the relationships that are important for diseases. And we have to bring it together in a standardized way that people will adopt widely.” The tranSMART approach seeks to do this, he notes.
For more about tranSMART: http://www.transmartfoundation.org