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Meet the Computational Life Sciences Seminar Series

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In October, the Center for Research Informatics and the Graham School MSc in Biomedical Informatics program jointly launched a new monthly speaker series, the Computational Life Science Seminar Series (CLSSS). The CLSSS was created to bring together researchers from all life sciences fields and offer a forum to highlight new research and foster collaborations. The format is flexible and sessions are open to faculty, students, and researchers throughout the University of Chicago community.

Thus far, the series has hosted speakers from the Center for Data Intensive Science to showcase data commons initiatives, as well as from the Research Computing Center to present their XROMM data management system (read a recap of this session here). The next seminar, scheduled for January 25, will present research currently underway in Jack Gilbert’s laboratory looking at how genomics of the microbiome might be connected to health and obesity outcomes. Register here, and join the mailing list to stay informed about future CLSSS sessions.

Bioinformatics and the role of gut bacteria in cancer treatment

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In a paper published in the January 5, 2018 issue of Science, a team of University of Chicago researchers led by Thomas Gajewski, MD, PhD, demonstrated a strong link between certain strains of human gut bacteria and success rates for immunotherapy treatments for advanced melanoma. 

The CRI’s Manager of Bioinformatics Riyue Bao, PhD, played a key role as coauthor of this paper. Riyue conducted bioinformatics analysis of microbiome and genomic data to explore the differences in the microbial environments of patients who did and did not respond to treatment, as well as integrating multiple types of microbial and genomics data to identify molecular alterations associated with clinical outcome. She also conducted statistical analysis of clinical data used in the study, developed new approaches for interpretation of the analysis results, and contributed to writing the paper.

The results of this study have the potential to improve cancer treatment by predicting which patients will respond well to certain therapies, as well as opening the door to probiotic treatments that could enhance the effects of immunotherapy drugs.

Read more about the study and the CRI’s contribution here.

CRI and Graham School offer online Healthcare Informatics course

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The Graham School MSc in Biomedical Informatics program has partnered with online education company GetSmarter to offer an 8-week online course in Healthcare Informatics. CRI Director Sam Volchenboum serves as Course Convener, guiding the course design and teaching some of the modules alongside other University experts. The online course was developed in order to bring the University of Chicago’s expertise in healthcare informatics to a worldwide audience, preparing students to enter a field that is becoming more complex and demanding by the year as more and more healthcare data is made available to study. Learn more about why we’re offering this course here. The next session begins February 28.

MScBMI students present capstones

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The 2017 cohort of the Graham School Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics program, which is supported and partially taught by the Center for Research Informatics, presented their capstone research projects this month in the program’s third annual Capstone Showcase. The eight projects featured a wide range of topics and approaches to informatics research. Read more about the capstones here.

Sam Volchenboum receives Rally for Research grant

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University of Chicago Medicine has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research to support CRI Director Sam Volchenboum’s work building a research data commons for rhabdomyosarcoma, a pediatric soft tissue cancer. This project, called INSTruCT, has the goal of bringing together clinical trials data from children with rhabdomyosarcoma around the world to enable data mining studies. Learn more about INSTruCT and the CRI’s other pediatric cancer research data commons work here.

Apply for seed funding for CRI services!

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The Department of Pediatrics has released a Request for Applications for a new initiative to foster excellence in research scholarship. This initiative will provide seed funding for promising clinical and health outcomes research projects focused on the health of children and their families. In particular, the Department aims to promote the early career development of translational and clinical faculty researchers, with the goal of generating preliminary data for subsequent funding applications.

This seed funding will be available to support services from the Center for Research Informatics, such as data requests from the Clinical Research Data Warehouse, data analysis by the Bioinformatics Core, or application development.

The awards: four awards of up to $5000 each
Who is eligible: faculty, fellows, and residents with faculty mentors
How to apply: find the Request for Applications here and apply by October 15

CTMS announced at OCR Town Hall


CTMS Business Owner and Executive Director of the Office for Clinical Research (OCR) Bethany Martell introduced the CTMS project to an audience of UChicago faculty and staff at the OCR Town Hall meeting last Friday.

OCR Town Hall meetings focus on issues relevant to clinical and translational research at the University and provide a venue for continual training and education. They are open to all faculty and staff.

CRI to play role in new pediatric data resource center

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As part of a newly announced five-year, $14.8 million NIH grant, the CRI will play a key role in building the Gabriella Miller Kids First pediatric data resource center. The center, a multi-institutional project headquartered at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, will provide pediatric researchers with a much-needed way to work with large sets of genomic and clinical data related to childhood cancer in order to better predict and treat it.

Two UChicago data science groups, the CRI and the Center for Data Intensive Science (CDIS), will take part in the project under the leadership of CDIS Director Robert Grossman, PhD, and CRI Director Sam Volchenboum, MD, PhD. A team combining both groups’ expertise in building data commons will be responsible for designing and operating the technical foundations of the project: the software that will be used to process and share data within the center, including the integration of disparate data sources, coordination with third-party applications, and support for data analysis.

By leveraging our years of experience working with multi-institutional data networks and large biomedical datasets, through this project the CRI has the opportunity to make a major contribution toward ending childhood cancer. Read more about the Kids First center and UChicago’s role here.