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August 30, 2023

UMass Chan helps lead national effort to make ALS data more accessible to researchers

A view of UMass Chan Medical School from Plantation Street in Worcester. Photo | Timothy Doyle UMass Chan Medical School in Worcester

Researchers from UMass Chan Medical School in Worcester, the National Institutes of Health, and Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, have developed a cloud-based genetic database for information related to ALS and frontotemporal dementia.

The database, ALS Compute, was funded by $3 million from the Washington D.C.-based ALS Association.

The project will combine six whole-genome sequencing efforts in one dataset, according to a Tuesday press release from the ALS Association. The six previous individual genome sequencing projects have discovered more than 40 genes linked to ALS, but researchers have been limited by the separation of the projects and the need for data and financial resources.

“Large-scale data consolidation and harmonization efforts like ALS Compute can help make the abundance of genetic information that has already been collected accessible to more researchers around the world so it can be leveraged to its full potential,” Paul Larkin, director of research at the ALS Association, said in the press release.

ALS Compute was founded by John Landers, professor of neurology at UMass Chan, Dr. Bryan Traynor, senior investigator in the Laboratory of Neurogenetics at the National Institute on Aging; and Dr. Jonathan Glass, professor of neurology and pathology at Emory.

“Our overall goal for ALS Compute is to increase access to ALS genetic data, especially for researchers in countries or at institutions that do not have the infrastructure to handle such large datasets,” Landers said. 

Researchers have raised an additional $1.6 million in funding from the NIH and intend to expand its reach to additional counties and build more cloud-based analysis tools.

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