New NIH Big Data to Knowledge center of excellence

October 09, 2014

AMHERST, Mass. - National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins today announced a new national initiative, the National Center of Excellence for Mobile Sensor Data-to-Knowledge (MD2K), focused on developing computational tools to facilitate the collection and analysis of large-scale health data generated by mobile and wearable sensors. Computer scientists Deepak Ganesan and Benjamin Marlin will co-lead the center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, one of 12 institutions sharing $10.8 million over four years.

Michael Malone, UMass Amherst's vice chancellor for research and engagement, complimented the researchers, saying, "This is an exciting and important collaboration that will have great synergies on campus with work in the Center for Personalized Health Monitoring in the Institute for Applied Life Sciences."

As the MD2K researchers explain, mobile sensors offer opportunities for accelerating biomedical discovery and optimizing care delivery, but significant technological and scientific challenges related to the complexities of mobile sensor data remain to be resolved.

The national MD2K team includes computer scientists, engineers, statisticians and biomedical researchers from 11 universities and one nonprofit organization. Ganesan, a sensor systems expert, and Marlin, a machine learning expert, will lead the MD2K Center's work on inferring measures of patient health, as well as markers of behavioral, physical, social, and environmental risk factors from mobile sensor data. The MD2K Center will focus on two driving health problems with high mortality risk: smoking and congestive heart failure.

Ganesan says, "The promise of mobile health sensing is that we can use body-worn sensors to detect various behavioral and environmental cues that will help predict adverse health events in real-time. For example, it has long been known that smoking relapse is related to stress, alcohol consumption and other cues. With wearable sensors, we can aim to detect these cues in real-time and offer interventions to patients before relapse occurs."

"The challenge," Marlin adds, "is making the data analytics highly robust and scalable while taking into account energy use and communications costs as well as the security and privacy of the data. The MD2K Center will explore solutions to all of these problems with the immediate goal of developing accurate and reliable computational tools that biomedical researchers will be able to easily incorporate into health and behavior studies."

Ganesan says, "This is an exciting time for mobile health sensing at UMass Amherst, given that there have been concurrent investments in novel biosensor device development on campus. The MD2K Center is about deploying new and existing biosensors, building the computational pipeline for extracting new biomedical insights from the resulting data, and laying the groundwork for the use of these devices in personalized care."

Santosh Kumar, a team leader at the University of Memphis, says, "Our team aims to lay the scientific foundations for realizing the vision of predictive, preventive, personalized, participatory and precision medicine with mobile sensors, and usher in the next generation of healthcare."
In addition to UMass Amherst, MD2K researchers come from Cornell Tech, Georgia Tech, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rice, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, the University of Memphis, University of Michigan and non-profit Open mHealth. The Mobile Sensor Data-to-Knowledge Center is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative, which is designed to support advances in research, policy and training needed for the effective use of big data in biomedical research.

University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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