NIH awards grant totaling $19.5M for Down syndrome research project
Reviewed by Emily Henderson, B.Sc.Nov 5 2020
Scientists and data experts are joining forces to create the world's first centralized platform for Down syndrome researchers to share, access, and analyze data. The goal of the new initiative, called the "Data Management and Portal for INCLUDE (DAPI) Project," is to accelerate discoveries and advance medical care for individuals with Down syndrome. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently awarded a grant totaling $19.5M over five years to develop the center as part of the INCLUDE Project (INvestigation of Co-occurring conditions across the Lifespan to Understand Down syndromE).
The DAPI Project is co-led by Dr. Adam Resnick, Director of the Center for Data Driven Discovery for Biomedicine (D3b) at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. Joaquin Espinosa, Executive Director of the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, and Dr. Justin Guinney, Vice President of Computational Oncology at Sage Bionetworks. DAPI Project leaders will work closely with NIH INCLUDE Project staff to develop the center. This collaboration brings together strong expertise in Down syndrome research and open, data-driven science.
We expect this new data center will be an impactful resource for the INCLUDE Project and the larger Down syndrome research community. The goal is to create a world-class portal for data sharing and analysis that will encourage innovative investigations into Down syndrome comorbidities across the lifespan."
Dr. Charlene Schramm, NIH Program Officer for the award
Dr. Melissa Parisi, one of the leaders of the NIH INCLUDE Project, added "The DAPI Project will combine data from existing research cohorts of individuals with Down syndrome with new cohorts. By building common data and shared analytic platforms, this project hopes to create a rich resource to help advance our understanding of these co-occurring conditions and support future therapeutic development."
The INCLUDE Project is a trans-NIH initiative launched in 2018 to support research into conditions that affect individuals with Down syndrome and the general population. More than six million individuals living with Down syndrome have an increased risk of developing a wide range of medical conditions, such as certain autoimmune disorders and Alzheimer's disease. At the same time, they are protected from some of the largest killers of the general population, including solid cancers and certain heart disease. Therefore, a key goal of the INCLUDE Project is to decode the underlying biology that alters these and many other co-occurring medical conditions in individuals with Down syndrome.
"Coordinated discovery efforts in this population not only have the potential to directly improve the lives of individuals with Down syndrome, but also to impact millions of other people affected by numerous related and co-occurring conditions," said Dr. Espinosa of the Crnic Institute.
To enable these investigations, the mission of the DAPI Project is to create a world class platform for data sharing, data access, and integrative analysis in Down syndrome. The platform will empower scientists, physicians, and the community with tools to elicit evidence-based action in the laboratory, clinic, classroom, government, and society at-large.
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"More and more, the scientific community is demonstrating the power of platforms to connect different communities with diverse areas of expertise and datasets to drive surprising discoveries and accelerated impact across a broad number of conditions in both children and adults," said Dr. Resnick of D3b. "The DAPI Project will build on these efforts through the implementation of new technologies and platforms that will empower large-scale, diverse INCLUDE datasets on behalf of individuals with Down syndrome and other associated medical conditions and diseases."
The DAPI Project is organized into three cores, roughly centered at each of the three partner organizations:
- Data Portal Core. Led by Dr. Resnick at D3b, the Data Portal Core oversees the development of the web-based data portal, which will be the public-facing centralized platform for data sharing and analysis. Dr. Resnick and the team at D3b are recognized leaders in collaborative, data-driven science, with expertise in pediatric cancers and diseases and large-scale data visualization and analysis.
- Data Management Core. Led by Dr. Guinney at Sage Bionetworks, the Data Management Core directs the overall data management practices for the DAPI Project, including protocols for data collection, governance, harmonization, processing, and sharing. Sage Bionetworks is a non-profit biomedical research organization devoted to responsible, open data-sharing practices, with broad expertise in computational and systems biology, as well as neurodegenerative diseases.
- Administrative and Outreach Core. Led by Dr. Espinosa at the Crnic Institute, the Administrative and Outreach Core leads outreach, education, and stakeholder engagement efforts for the scientific and Down syndrome communities, as well as overall project management. Dr. Espinosa and the Crnic Institute team are leading Down syndrome researchers who also administer a large Down syndrome research program at the University of Colorado.
Additional experts from Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Sainte-Justine, Oregon Health and Science University, Oregon State University, Seven Bridges Genomics, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center will also collaborate with the DAPI Project team.
"We have created a truly exceptional team with diverse expertise to accomplish the mission of the DAPI Project," said Dr. Guinney of Sage Bionetworks. "We are all excited and honored to work with the NIH, the Down syndrome research community, and each other on this new endeavor."
DAPI Project operations began in early October, including efforts to identify existing Down syndrome cohorts and data already established by researchers, to engage in 'listening tours' to understand the needs of the researcher and Down syndrome communities, and to develop frameworks for data governance, standardization, and management. The DAPI Project team aims to release the first version of the public data portal in 2022, while continuing to refine and expand the platform thereafter.