Project:Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN)
PI: Mark Ellisman, Professor, Neurosciences and Bioengineering, UCSD; Steve Potkin, Professor, Psychiatry, UCI; Bruce Rosen, Professor, Radiology, Harvard Medical School; G. Allan Johnson, Director, Center for in Vivo Microscopy, Duke University Medical Center
Funding: National Center for Research Resources,
Biomedical researchers and information technologists have established
a national cyberinfrastructure to enhance scientific understanding
of the brain and improve treatment of brain disorders by enabling
data sharing and correlation on a scale never before achieved. This
project, known as the Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN),
teams 16 Biotechnology Resource Centers and General Clinical Research
Centers (GCRCs) located at some of the nation’s most prestigious
universities. Together, they are implementing a "standard"
computational, data analysis, and networking infrastructure to share,
compare, and cross-correlate brain image data to support more comprehensive
studies across differing populations (including healthy individuals,
patients with brain disorders, and species that are representative
of human diseases) and image-acquisition devices and techniques.
The BIRN Coordinating Center, led by Mark Ellisman at UCSD, provides
a "standard issue" node to each site (a Grid computing
rack with three Linux-based computers, 1-10 terabytes of storage,
Oracle database, the SDSC Storage Resource Broker, and Gigabit network
access), oversees tool development, and manages distribution and
storage of the vast quantities of data.
BIRN consists of three test bed projects: Morphometry BIRN (human
brain structure), Function BIRN (human brain function), and Mouse
BIRN (comparisons between mouse brain structure and the human brain).
As it grows, this infrastructure is expected to embrace other organs,
diseases, and species that have implications for explaining human
neurological disorders, benefiting the biomedical community at large.
And, because the infrastructure and tools developed will be flexible
and extensible, they will have application to many other fields
that rely on data to support scientific inquiry.
"BIRN is establishing the type of large-scale, collaborative
research environment needed to solve the most complex biomedical
problems that face us today."
– Mark Ellisman, PI of the BIRN-CC project
BIRN is not
only providing a technological foundation to support research activities
on a more productive level. It’s also changing the sociology
of the scientific enterprise by rewarding collaboration. Those researchers
that contribute their data in turn will be able to access, and use
for subsequent studies, relevant data contributed by other researchers.
How might this infrastructure be used? Steven Potkin, director of
the Brain Imaging Center at UCI, is the PI of the Function BIRN
test bed project, which focuses on neuronal signaling in people
with schizophrenia. His project will leverage the clinical resources
of several GCRCs to compare brain scans of small groups of patients
who have experienced the onset of the disease, including those who
have yet to be treated and those who are undergoing treatment.
Mark Ellisman, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Steve Potkin, email@example.com,