OBI employs open data approach to spur autism research 

by • November 9, 2017 • Feature Slider, Feature-Home, Featured-Slides-HomeComments Off on OBI employs open data approach to spur autism research 448

The provincially funded Ontario Brain Institute is releasing open data on autism to speed up scientific breakthroughs on research for a cure to the disease. 

The open data release includes 31 mouse models, representing 23 genotypes from an ongoing study with currently more than 90 mouse models by the Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders (POND), OBI’s research program on neurodevelopmental disorders.  

Open data stems from the idea that some data held by a business, government agency or other organization should be freely shared with individuals and other organizations to be used and republished. By doing so, it is hoped that access to information and lack of restrictions would encourage creative development of solutions to various types of problems. 

“Making this dataset public and open will allow researchers around the world to ask new questions about how the genetic underpinnings of autism lead to changes in brain networks, surely coming up with questions – and answers – that we have not even thought of yet”, said Dr. Jason Lerch, senior Scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). 

The project is funded by  OBI with support from Brain Canada and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and led by Dr. Lerch. The high-resolution Magnetic Resonance (MR) imaging mouse model data will help researchers explore how autism affects the brain and accelerate the discovery process leading to better treatments and improved health impact.   

The project will make use of data in Brain-CODE. 

Brain-CODE is OBI’s central data base. It is used by 240 researchers working in over 40 institutions across the province to share data among themselves. The platform’s design supports the management of large volumes of data to enable big data analytics. 

Brain-CODE’s robust governance framework encourages data sharing and collaboration, without compromising participant privacy and data security.OBI has been designated a Privacy by Design ambassador by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.   

Some facts about Brain-CODE and OBI: 

  • Brain-CODE has 16,140 records in total: 14,610 human records and 1,530 animal records across its five principal research areas, cerebral palsy, depression, epilepsy, neurodegenerative disorders (such as, Alzheimer’s disease), and neurodevelopmental disorders (such as, autism), as well as housing datasets from other research studies.    
  • OBI was the first research institute given the Privacy by Design ambassador designation by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario for adhering and committing to a rigorous framework of data privacy and security.   
  • The data in Brain-CODE are standardized, allowing an apples-to-apples comparison of datasets within and between brain disorders. This will enable researchers to explore questions never before possible, like whether the depression experienced by people with epilepsy is the same or different than the depression experienced by people with dementia.    
  • Brain-CODE is designed to link with other national and international databases, allowing collaborations and data linkages that were previously not possible, ultimately enabling next level research and discovery.   

The project is a critical step for OBI and the neuroscience research community, according to Dr. Tom Mikkelsen, president and scientific director of OBI. 

“We believe in doing science differently, and that means breaking barriers to sharing data and increasing collaboration,” he said. ” This crucial step will allow more people to participate in the discovery process through access to high quality, open data.”    

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