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NIH partners with Microsoft Azure to expand biomedical research in the cloud

Microsoft Azure's collaboration with the National Institutes of Health's Science and Technology Research Infrastructure intended for Discovery, Experimentation, and Sustainability (STRIDES) Initiative as the most advanced cloud service provider will drive biomedical research. With this collaboration, the STRIDES Initiative aims to accelerate biomedical research in the cloud by reducing economic and process roadblocks. Additionally, providing cost-efficient access to cloud platforms, training cloud experts, and best practices for optimizing research in the cloud are also on their schedule.

Within few years, the STRIDES Initiative has extended access to crucial infrastructure and cutting-edge cloud resources for NIH researchers at more than 2,500 academic institutes across the nation. NIH has assisted beyond 425 research programs and projects, leveraging cloud resources through the STRIDES Initiative to date. Jointly, the researchers have utilized more than 83 million hours of computational resources to access and analyze above 115 petabytes of highly critical biomedical data in the cloud.

Further, the National Library of Medicine's Sequence Read Archive (SRA) has migrated over 43 petabytes of "next-generation" sequencing data to the cloud, leveraging the STRIDES Initiative. The National Library of Medicine's Sequence Read Archive (SRA) is one of the largest, publicly accessible genome sequence repositories across the globe. However, the migration has eased out the access for millions of researchers. Now, they can search the complete catalog of genomic data and use computational tools for analysis using the cloud.

Andrea T. Norris, the Director of NIH's Center for Information Technology and NIH Chief Information Officer, said, "The cloud can enable democratizing access to valued research data and the most advanced analytical technologies for all researchers. Increasing our network of providers and access to the most innovative computational platform, tools, and services gives the agility and flexibility that researchers need to fast-track research inferences. Partnering with Microsoft Azure as a cloud service provider extends our goals to enhance discovery and efficiency in biomedical research."

Additionally, Toni Townes-Whitley, the President, U.S. Regulated Industries, Microsoft, quoted, "We frequently jeopardize the worth of vital biomedical data because of the volumes being created and digitalized around the world. However, biomedical researchers will quickly categorize and extract critical insights from this ocean of information with the cloud and artificial intelligence capabilities. He further added, "We are honored to join forces with the NIH to enable researchers to solve some of today's major medical challenges to get a healthier and more sustainable global population."

STRIDES Initiative's principal theory says the data available through these collaborations will incorporate standards endorsed by the biomedical research community to make data FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable.
According to Susan K. Gregurick, Ph.D., Associate Director for Data Science and Director of the Office of Data Science Strategy at NIH, "We have an aspiring vision of an advanced, FAIR biomedical data landscape. The partnership with Microsoft Azure can help to strengthen NIH's data ecosystem and speed up data-driven research and discovery."

Additionally, Microsoft Azure also teams up with Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services to support the STRIDES Initiative.

About the NIH Office of Data Science Strategy
The Office of Data Science Strategy (ODSS) helps achieve the NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science. It combines a scientific, technical, and operational association with the institutes, centers, and NIH offices. The office was established in 2018 with the Departments of Program Coordination, Strategic Initiatives, and Planning. It plans and manages trans-NIH initiatives and research supported by the NIH Common Fund.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
NIH is the nation's medical research agency. It comprises 27 Institutes and Centers and is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the prime federal agency managing and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research. Further, it investigates the causes and treatments, curing both the common and rare diseases.

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