Microsoft is teaming up with leading medical research organizations to create a shared network of research data in the Pacific Northwest.
Dubbed the Cascadia Data Discovery Initiative (CDDI), the goal of the collaboration is simple: make it easier to find and share medical data. For example, researchers at one of the institutions should be able to easily locate relevant data at other organizations without violating privacy laws or licensing agreements.
“The partnership will tackle the barriers that make breakthroughs in research difficult, starting with barriers to data discovery and data access,” Microsoft chief data analytics officer John Kahan wrote in a blog post. Kahan said that the group will pursue several pilot projects that show the value of data sharing.
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Started by Microsoft and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the initiative today added four new members: BC Cancer, the University of British Columbia, the University of Washington eScience Institute and the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University.
“We envision a global research community in which sharing deidentified data becomes the norm. Efforts like CDDI that are working towards this vision will help maximize the knowledge gained from the efforts and sacrifices of our patients,” Shannon McWeeney, associate director of computational biomedicine in the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, said in a statement.
Members of the initiative receive subsidized cloud computing costs, data science and engineering support and access to the network of collaborators. The long-term aim is to create an open data ecosystem for the Pacific Northwest.
The CDDI first began to take shape following a fundraising event last December, at which Microsoft gave a $4 million challenge gift for cancer research at Fred Hutch.
The collaborative effort is tied to the Cascadia Innovation Corridor, an effort to strengthen the economic might of Vancouver, B.C., Seattle, Portland and surrounding areas through strategic partnerships. This group also gave rise to the idea for a high-speed railway that would connect the three cities. Microsoft, the Province of British Columbia, and the Oregon Department of Transportation gave $750,000 to study the rail project last year.
Microsoft’s involvement in CDDI is yet another example of how the software giant is vying to become the cloud computing vendor of choice for healthcare institutions. This week, Microsoft partnered with Providence St. Joseph Health on a new partnership Monday designed to bring the healthcare institution’s vast clinical data and the software giant’s artificial intelligence and cloud capabilities together.