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UTHealth Houston joins NIH Bridge2AI initiative to expand Artificial Intelligence research


Faculty members from UTHealth Houston’s School of Biomedical Informatics (SBMI) will play important roles in a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) program called Bridge to Artificial Intelligence (Bridge2AI). NIH plans to invest $130 million over four years “to accelerate the widespread use of artificial intelligence (AI) by the biomedical and behavioral research communities.” The program will fund four data generation projects as well as six core BRIDGE Centers for integration, dissemination, and evaluation activities.

Researchers from SBMI participating in Bridge2AI include the Christopher Sarofim Family Professor in Biomedical Informatics and Bioengineering Xiaoqian Jiang, PhD, Assistant Professor Yejin Kim, PhD, Associate Professor Kirk Roberts, PhD, and the Glassell Family Distinguished Professor and Associate Dean for Innovation, Hua Xu, PhD. Each faculty member will contribute to Bridge2AI projects focused around their subject matter expertise.

Jiang is a co-lead for the ethics core with a focus on tool development. “This core will support the Bridge2AI program in becoming sustainable and being more firmly grounded in ethics and trustworthiness,” noted Jiang.

Jiang is also involved in one of the four data generation projects titled “Patient-Focused Collaborative Hospital Repository Uniting Standards (CHoRUS) for Equitable AI.” His role within the project is to develop privacy preserving data curation tools to support data sharing and analysis in both centralized and federated settings.

Both Kim and Roberts are serving as co-investigators and domain specific advisors on the ethics core. They are tasked with supporting the data generation process team as they consider ethical problems in their data collection and model implementation. They will also assist with ethics oversight for the machine learning components.

The faculty members serving on the ethics core are also in a unique position to set the ethical standards before the data is generated. Typically, research ethics focuses on compliance. However, for the Bridge2AI project, the team of researchers are working openly and collaboratively during the ethical inquiry process. Roberts stated “ethics will be interwoven into every step of the data generation process instead of an authority imposing a set of rules.”

Xu will lead a team at UTHealth Houston in facilitating all technical aspects of the administrative core including building a web portal for information dissemination and supporting metadata harmonization. The administrative core provides the overall guidance, logistic and policy support, and dissemination venues for diverse Bridge2AI activities. They will also make all data, tools, and processes developed at Bridge2AI findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (also known as FAIR).

For more information on the Bridge2AI project, read the NIH new release available online.

 Marcos A. Hernandez