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Supporting Scientific Research: Reflections from Participating in the FDA's Scientific Computing Days Event

Oct 03, 2019, by Dan Taylor
Tags: Advanced Networking, Affiliate, Internet2 Member, Internet2 Network, Recent Posts

For the last seven years the Scientific Computing Board (SCB) at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has gathered scientists and information technologists from the agency's seven centers to discuss accomplishments, foster collaboration, and set support priorities for their scientific research and regulatory work. 

The Center for Food Safety and Nutrition (CFSAN) highlighted recent speed tests on their Internet2 Cloud Connect link supporting their serverless HPC application, to be operationalized using the new Internet2 Rapid Private Interconnect (RPI) service for AWS Direct Connect. 

This annual event provides a great opportunity to meet directly with scientists and information technologists and allows us to update on Internet2 services and projects. As an organization, we’ve always been able to provide the network bandwidth, community reach, identity management tools, and access to vast resources including science gateways, HPC, and cloud services. 

By folding in new, secure data transfer services from Globus (Globus High Assurance), Internet2 can bring new value to the healthcare ecosystem. This HIPAA-compliant data transfer service, piloting in a NSF-funded project led by UPMC and the University of Chicago to federate cancer registries, will enable the sharing of sensitive data for research and precision medicine.  

In addition to highlighting the collaborative effort supporting the FDA's work moving big data from instruments to systems, as well as between internal and external sites, the Internet2 FDA team unveiled an architecture to interface with the government's Trusted Internet Connection facilities. 

This architecture will enable high-speed connections to cloud service providers and pharma partners. Globus allows users to also move personal health information (PHI) and confidential unclassified information (CUI). The concept was received well and the SCB has agreed to meeting with representatives from Internet2 and Globus to further discuss FDA applications.  

The highlight of the conference was an interactive session with Dr. Amy Abernethy, the new FDA CIO. A physician, bioinformatician, and former chief medical officer for Flatiron, Dr. Abernethy’s been quick to grasp the challenges and opportunities facing this vast organization which impacts one fifth of the US economy. You can watch a recording of her talk here: Fireside Chat with Amy Abernethy and Peter Marks "Technology, Modernization, and FDA." 

Additional keynote speakers explored current high-performance computing issues in precision medicine, artificial intelligence applications in food safety, modeling and simulation, and real-world evidence and regulatory science. The SCB also provided progress report on their FDA scientific computing priorities in the following categories: data transfer and connectivity; IT acquisition; and hiring for scientific computing.  

FDA Scientific Computing Board leads Dr Mark Walderhaug (Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research) and Dr.Errol Strain (Center for Veterinary Medicine) at the SCB Update session.
The Centers for Food Safety, Toxicology Research, and Tobacco Control joined Internet2, Google AWS, Booz Allen, SAIC, SAS, Dovel, Leidos, General Dynamics, and about twenty other organizations in the exhibit hall.