Inhofe requests $1.9M for Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation data center

Inhofe requests $1.9M for Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation data center

Sen. Jim Inhofe’s office announced on Monday a $1.9 million congressional funding request for a biomedical data sciences center at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

The new Center for Biomedical Data Sciences will open later this year and will afford OMRF new computing and data analysis abilities and support for scientists studying conditions like cancer, lupus, stroke and heart disease.

“OMRF has been involved in groundbreaking research for the past 75 years,” Inhofe said in a statement. “Since its founding, OMRF’s scientists’ discoveries have yielded hundreds of medical advancements used to improve — and even save — the lives of Oklahomans and individuals worldwide. We want to keep this research going — and to expand it. I am happy to support dedicated funding to help OMRF establish Oklahoma’s first Center for Biomedical Data Sciences.”

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Inhofe’s request could be granted by the end of the year. If it is granted, the funding could get to OMRF by the first quarter of 2022, said Luke Holland, Inhofe’s chief of staff.

The requested congressional funds would cover about 40% of what OMRF would need for the new center in its first five years, said Adam Cohen, interim president of OMRF. The foundation already is raising private funds for the rest, Cohen said.

Cohen said additional power to process the huge amount of data generated in biomedical research is the No. 1 request from scientists across OMRF’s five research programs.

“It’s become a huge bottleneck in science,” he said. “We’re able to generate huge amounts of data, but we’re not actually able to process it, so it’s a profound need.”

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Bill Freeman, an OMRF scientist who studies neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, said data for a single experiment in his lab can fill a spreadsheet 200 million columns wide and 3 billion rows deep.

“To make discoveries from these massive data not only requires computing resources, but also talented mathematicians, computer scientists and biologists,” said Freeman, who is part of the committee of scientists developing the center.

OMRF has hired two data scientists who will become the center’s first staff members when they begin work this fall. A search is underway for a director of the center, Cohen said.

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The center also will offer opportunities for partnerships and collaboration between OMRF scientists and Langston University, the Oklahoma City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Oklahoma State University, OU Health and the University of Oklahoma.

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