Report: Researchers receive NIH funding to develop data-driven strategies in COVID-19 fight

COLUMBIA, SC – University of South Carolina (UofSC) researchers from its Big Data Health Science Center initiative have received $1.25 million in grant funding from the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to develop a data-driven system to track COVID-19 in South Carolina.

COVID-19, a disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), remains a present threat to millions of Americans including many South Carolinians. The speed of transmission across the United States and its morbidity are particularly alarming. It has become critically important to track transmission data, and to accelerate research.

The NIAID’s two-year grant will support efforts to develop a de-identified linked database system via REDCap and a mobile application (app) for collating surveillance, clinical, multi-omics and geospatial data on both COVID-19 patients and health workers treating COVID-19 patients.

The data system will allow investigators to examine COVID’s transmission, progression, and geospatial visualization to identify important predictors of short and long-term clinical outcomes using machine learning algorithms.

These aims will lead to the creation of a REDCap database and mobile app that collects relevant coalescing data that leverages with statewide integrated data warehouse capabilities.

“Today, the U.S. health system has an opportunity to leverage and deploy real-time multitudinal and multimodal data currently being collected for precision health. The combination of such data with other data sources – including social media data and geospatial data – holds great promise for accelerating research in understanding the natural history of the COVID-19 disease now and in the future” says Principal Investigator Bankole Olatosi, Arnold School of Public Health.

Principal Investigator Xiaoming Li, Arnold School of Public Health, credited the success of the NIH grant application to the strong support of the UofSC Excellence Initiative for the Big Data Health Science Center.

Li also emphasized that “this project is significant as it will build on a strong partnership between UofSC and DHEC and take advantage of COVID-19 surveillance data, clinical, multi-omics and geospatial data to help us to understand and monitor transmission dynamics, natural history, virology and clinical outcomes. As a result of improved computational architecture and improved capabilities in data management and analytics software, we can now quickly build integrated multitudinal and multimodal datasets to support data annotation, reproducible analytics, and controlled-access archiving and sharing”.

Other UofSC team members include faculty from the Arnold School of Public Health (Jiajia Zhang), College of Arts and Science (Zhenlong Li), College of Engineering and Computing (Neset Hikmet and Jianjun Hu), and School of Medicine-Columbia (Sharon Weissman).

Thomas Chandler, dean of the Arnold School of Public Health, praised the team’s efforts. “This major grant is a testimony to how public health faculty members can creatively work with faculty from multiple other disciplines across campus as well as with state agencies to produce a rapid research-intensive response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This project will also be a great demonstration of the power of Big Data generation and analytics for addressing significant health problems in the state of South Carolina. It’s impact for the state via the unique tools developed will reach well beyond COVID-19 into the future.”


About University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina is a globally recognized, high-impact research university committed to a superior student experience and dedicated to innovation in learning, research and community engagement. Founded in 1801, the university offers more than 350 degree programs and is the state’s only top-tier Carnegie Foundation research institution. More than 50,000 students are enrolled at one of 20 locations throughout the state, including the research campus in Columbia. With 56 nationally ranked academic programs including top-ranked programs in international business, the nation’s best honors college and distinguished programs in engineering, law, medicine, public health and the arts, the university is helping to build healthier, more educated communities in South Carolina and around the world.



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