Technology

The Alzheimer's Association's Big Data Play Shows Results

By / Jul 17, 2013 (Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock)

A year after the group launched a big data project to track genome sequences related to the disease, it has announced that a wide array of data will be made available to researchers worldwide.

The things we don’t know about Alzheimer’s disease are many, but much research is being done to learn  about and cure the disease.

And the Alzheimer’s Association, with the help of a Google cofounder, is hard at work on a big data angle—with the fruits of a major project being offered to medical researchers worldwide. More info:

About the project: The association, which announced the initiative last week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Boston, continues the trend already used in other large medical research projects—utilizing database frameworks already common worldwide. The association is working in concert with the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, a charitable group led by Google cofounder Sergey Brin and his wife, Anne Wojcicki. The group has donated to a number of philanthropic causes in the past, including the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Wikimedia Foundation. Last week, it and the association announced that a large amount of data had already been generated by the big data initiative and that it would be shared with the wider research community.

A focus on open research: One of the main goals of the project, which started collecting data a year ago, is to make the information openly available to researchers worldwide. As a result, the data—an estimated 200 terabytes of it—will be accessible via the Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network (GAAIN). The network, made possible through a $5 million grant by the association, could help encourage new ideas in Alzheimer’s research. “By fostering a higher level of global data sharing, GAAIN will accelerate investigation and discovery in Alzheimer’s through a system comparable to a search engine like Google or Bing for relevant data,” says Maria Carrillo, the group’s vice president of medical and scientific relations.

The Alzheimer’s Association isn’t the only organization working on this issue. Last year, the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund donated $5.4 million—one dollar for each American estimated to be suffering from the disease—to Massachusetts General Hospital in an effort to encourage more research on the disease.

That group, with the backing of venture capitalist Henry McCance, is working on an Alzheimer’s DNA sequencing program of its own.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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