Research: "Accelerating Genomic Data Sharing and Collaborative Research with Privacy Protection"

Erman Ayday Assistant Professor, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science CWRU

xLab faculty co-director and associate professor of computer science, Dr. Erman Ayday, was awarded a five-year grant in the amount of $3.2 million from the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine and National Human Genome Research Institute, for a project entitled, “Accelerating Genomic Data Sharing and Collaborative Research with Privacy Protection.”

The rapid progress in genome sequencing has led to significant data collection. Analyzing this data can be transformative in answering the key questions about disease associations and our evolution. However, due to growing privacy concerns about the sensitive information of participants, access to genomic datasets used in studies, such as genome-wide association studies (GWAS), is restricted to only a limited number of large groups. On the other hand, collaborative research over genomic datasets, which will also lead to democratizing genomic data sharing, requires sharing data across collaborators. One way to share such datasets across collaborators is through the IRB process and the use of institutional data use agreements. Currently, due to the sensitivity of data, the GWAS computation can only be carried out after IRB review for all collaborators.

The project, led by Dr. Ayday and in collaboration with UTHealth and Rutgers University, proposes a sandbox environment in which potential collaborators come together and obtain an accurate "preview" of their collaborative research in an efficient, reproducible (verifiable), and privacy-preserving way. Notably, working together with the IRB from three institutions, Dr. Ayday and his team will design a pilot study to explore the efficacy of the proposed framework and its integration into the current IRB process. The outcome of the research aims to provide a new strategy for genomic data sharing.