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neuGRID, the European online diagnosis environment for Alzheimer’s, goes global with outGRID and the United Nations

Geneva, 20 February 2012

neuGRID, a cloud-computing infrastructure funded by the European Commission that stores and analyses a vast database of 3D brain scans, is now expanding globally to help find treatments for Alzheimer’s. This ground-breaking initiative will help develop a global online system to centralise and boost Alzheimer’s research initiatives.

Following its three-year development, neuGRID was successfully tested in 2009 when it extracted an Alzheimer’s biomarker in a record time of two weeks instead of the usual five years. outGRID, the international brand of neuGRID, is now seeking to converge neuGRID with two e-infrastructures (CBRAIN in Canada, LONI in the US) into one unique interoperable platform. This will allow scientists worldwide to share their medical data while accessing the extensive information available online, thus helping them to draw more precise conclusions about the onset and development of Alzheimer’s.

Dr Giovanni Frisoni, neuGRID and outGRID coordinator and Vice Scientific Director of San Giovanni di Dio Fatebenefratelli Institute, says: “outGRID will allow for fully exploiting research efforts developed around the world, which are currently fragmented and often duplicated. Most countries are devoting resources to neuroimaging studies on earlier Alzheimer’s diagnosis and development of disease markers to be used in clinical drug trials, but a lack of coordination between these initiatives limits the prospect of making substantial scientific advancements”.

outGRID is now reaching unprecedented momentum with a high-level workshop co-organised with the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Geneva on 20-21 February with speakers from the European Commission, the and the World Health Organization. Aiming to foster international partnerships and garner additional government support, the event will promote the writing of a consensus document with scientific centres in India and Canada.

Kostas Glinos, Head of Unit for e-infrastructure at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Information Society (DG INFSO), explains: “outGRID responds to today’s pressing need for effective computational tools to support Alzheimer’s research. With the strong commitment of research centres and support of public funds, outGRID should succeed in establishing a global infrastructure that maximises the use of MRIs and accelerates progress in combatting Alzheimer’s, for the benefit of millions of patients and their families.”

With the proven success of neuGRID in Europe and these newly established international partnerships, outGRID is now one step closer to its goal of reaching full interoperability between scientific research centres worldwide, facilitating the earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

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About neuGRID

neuGRID is a new, user-friendly grid-based infrastructure enabling the neuroscience community to collect and archive large amounts of imaging data and to access resources for computationally intensive data analyses. The development of this infrastructure was funded by the European Commission Seventh Framework Program with the intention of establishing a process of early detection of memory loss and testing the effectiveness of drug treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Researchers from the San Giovanni di Dio Fatebenefratelli Institute in Brescia, Italy; the VU University Medical Center of Amsterdam; and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm contributed to the infrastructure’s design and development. The neuGRID initiative began in 2008 and was successfully completed in 2011.

About the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) of the United Nations

ITU is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies – ICTs. ITU allocates global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, develop the technical standards that ensure networks and technologies seamlessly interconnect, and strive to improve access to ICTs to underserved communities worldwide. ITU is committed to connecting all the world's people – wherever they live and whatever their means. The work of ITU protects and supports everyone's fundamental right to communicate. In addition to its 193 Member States, ITU membership includes ICT regulators, leading academic institutions and some 700 private companies. In an increasingly interconnected world, ITU is the single global organization embracing all players in this dynamic and fast-growing sector.

About outGRID

OutGRID is the international brand of neuGRID. Its ultimate objective is to shift the analysis process of the brain scans to cloud-computing, therefore delocalising all data to a global, online network. Three e-infrastructures for computational neuroscience are presently active or under construction worldwide. In Europe, neuGRID aims to provide large sets of brain images paired with grid-based computationally intensive algorithms for studies of neurodegenerative diseases. In Canada and the United States, CBRAIN and the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at UCLA (LONI) offer computational resources and algorithm pipelines. The aim of outGRID is to ignite the process to lead the three e-infrastructures to converge into one unique worldwide facility. outGRID will organize workshops to promote the exchange of technical information, direct the development of the infrastructures towards interoperability and promote specific international calls aiming to achieve full interoperability.

About the European Commission, Directorate General for Information Society (DG INFSO)

The mission of the Directorate General for the Information Society and Media (DG INFSO) is to make every European digital by: achieving the digital single market, reinforcing Europe's competitiveness by increasing investment in ICT research and innovation, promoting the access and use of ICT to the benefit of EU society, implementing the "acquis communautaire" (EU legislation) in the area of Information Society and Media. Implementation of this mission will be ensured by delivery on the objectives and actions of the Digital Agenda for Europe and related flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy (http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020).

Useful links:

neuGRID: http://www.neugrid.eu

neuGRID project video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8_4f8q4DJ0

ITU: http://www.itu.int

outGRID: http://www.outgrid.eu

DG INFSO of the EC: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/information_society

Project coordinators:

§ Dr. Giovanni Frisoni, Vice Scientific Director of San Giovanni di Dio Fatebenefratelli (FBF) Institute in Brescia, Italy

§ David Manset, Technical Coordinator of Outgrid, MAAT-g

§ Richard McClatchey, Technical Supervisor of Neugrid, University of the West of England

§ Alan Evans, Principal Investigator of CBRAIN, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

§ Arthur Toga, Principal Investigator of LONI – Laboratory of NeuroImaging, Los Angeles, USA

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