BioMicroCenter:BIG meeting:KlemmTalk

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Informatics Programs at NCI BIG meeting June 21, 2012

Juli Klemm Associate Director, Integrative Cancer Research Programs Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology NCI


  • What is the NCI Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology (CBIIT)?
  • What is (was) the caBIG program?
  • What is (will be) the National Cancer Informatics Program (NCIP)?
  • Discuss…

What is NCI CBIIT?

  • The National Cancer Institute (NCI) created the Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology (CBIIT) to lead the coordination, development, and deployment of NCI-wide digital capabilities including biomedical informatics, scientific management information systems and computing resources in support of NCI initiatives.
  • NCI Intramural Systems
  • NCI IT and communication infrastructure
  • Cancer Data Standards Repository (caDSR)
  • NCI Thesaurus and Enterprise Vocabulary Services
  • caBIG Program

caBIG program origins: 2002

  • National Cancer Advisory Board charges NCI to assist the cancer research community with the increasingly unmanageable informatics challenges associated with (especially) clinical research, biospecimen management, and molecular analysis

Informatics Tower of Babel (from 2003)

  • Each cancer research community speaks its own scientific “dialect”
  • Integration critical to achieve promise of molecular medicine

caBIG Strategy: From Launch to the Present

  • Community
  • Establish an open community of participants from the spectrum of disciplines, geographies, types of institutions, etc.
  • Facilitate the work of others who are building capabilities
  • Adopt a federated model to allow local control of sharing and partnerships and to support individual labs and institutions
  • Content / Capability
  • Facilitate access to rich primary data
  • Leverage existing academic and commercial software, wherever possible, to avoid unnecessary time and expense
  • Invest primarily in open source tools that the community does not have
  • Connectivity
  • Recognize legacy IT systems to avoid “rip and replace” costs
  • Wherever feasible, make disparate applications compatible for “plug-and-play” compatibility and data-sharing through standards-based interoperable infrastructure

NCI Board of Scientific Advisors (BSA) Report on the caBIG® Program, March 2011: Summary

  • Goals of the program are valid
  • Success with hybrid approaches that are community driven but centrally coordinated
  • Demonstrated that technical interoperability is possible


  • Overly dependent on contractors
  • “Cart before the horse”, “build-it-and-they-will-come”
  • Technology selection criticized
  • Lack of focus

Need for a National Cancer Informatics Program

  • Biomedical research is heavily dependent on informatics
  • Goals:
  • Accelerate interoperability and data liquidity
  • Reduce balkanization and duplication
  • Foster and leverage academic innovation
  • Make community-developed digital capabilities sustainable
  • Two priority domain areas for NCI:
  • Genomics, especially handling the long-anticipated “tsunami of data” from high-throughput sequencing
  • Building an infrastructure for a “next-generation” clinical trials enterprise

Announcement, April 14, 2012

  • New National Cancer Informatics Program (NCIP)
  • Will leverage the investments made in, and lessons learned from, caBIG
  • To be build in close collaboration with the cancer research community and the newly formed Informatics Oversight Committee (IOC) of the National Cancer Advisory Board in developing a plan for NCIP
  • Recruiting new Director for NCI’s Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology (CBIIT) - responsibilities will include NCIP
  • George Komatsoulis, Ph.D., is Acting Director of CBIIT
  • Organizing a meeting of recognized leaders in the research community to discuss development of NCIP
  • Assess informatics needs in the cancer research community
  • Identify the best ways to meet these needs
  • Ensure that data are available for sharing

Project evaluation criteria

  • Driving need (biological or clinical project)
  • Criteria for evaluation of success or failure (“stopping rule”)
  • Measurable progress toward NCI’s vision
  • Designed to anticipate change
  • Achievable in time frame / budget proposed
  • Broadly implementable (e.g., outside cancer)
  • Documented, long term sustainability plan
  • User base / stakeholder assessment
  • Generalizable – not a “pet project” of an “in group”
  • “Market value” to gain adoption without incentives

Building Blocks for the National Cancer Informatics Program

  • NCI’s Divisions, Offices and Centers (DOCs)
  • Conduits to the science community’s needs
  • Many pockets of informatics expertise and experience
  • Many ongoing, albeit uncoordinated, informatics activities
  • Will be partners in NCIP
  • NCI’s experience in informatics
  • Pioneering infrastructure for data standards
  • Lessons learned from the caBIG program
  • Established informatics community
  • Public investment in valuable work products

NCI Biomedical Informatics Infrastructure Program (Notional)

  • Developing/deploying/supporting:
  • Interoperability technology (vocabularies, data elements, data standards, security, etc.)
  • Applications for which there is a broad, demonstrable need across the research community and for which there are no obvious open source and/or commercial alternatives
  • Public cloud infrastructure that could be made available to researchers to help democratize access to large-scale data
  • Incorporating some successful elements of caBIG

NCI Biomedical Informatics and Computational Biology Program and In Silico Biology Program (Notional)

  • NCI Biomedical Informatics and Computational Biology Program
  • Would support research and development of new algorithms and statistical methods
  • Would support individual researchers with informatics needs
  • NCI In Silico Biology Program
  • A computational research program fostering use of existing genomics data
  • Including the current in silico research centers of excellence (ISRCE) program

NCI Biomedical Informatics Training Program (Notional)

  • Goal: develop a community of biomedical scientists (e.g., graduate students, postdoctoral fellows) trained in informatics, via (potentially) a combination of:
  • Short term, intensive training with biomedical informatics researchers
  • Long term specialization in biomedical informatics and/or computational biology

NCIP Launch Meeting, May 31, 2012

  • Broadly successful in allowing a diversity of views to be represented and yet allow a conversation to take place
  • NCI will construct a synthesis of the meeting, generate a proposal for next steps and circulate for comment
  • Next steps will involve everyone in the community that is willing to work together to move biomedical informatics forward, whether they attended the meeting (physically or virtually) or not

Open Source Development Initiative (OSDI)

  • caBIG applications will begin the move to a collaborative open-source software development environment (over next 12-24 months)
  • Projects will not necessarily all move at once
  • All caBIG development projects will move to OSDI, irrespective of size of user base
  • “Collaborative” includes collaborative governance
  • NCI will be a partner, but will no longer play a coordinating role
  • NCI will be able to fund software development through OSDI (according to identified NCI/community priorities) but NCI won’t be the only organization able to do so