New Duke center to support big data, machine learning in healthcare

The Duke University Pratt School of Engineering in Durham, North Carolina, has announced the launch of the Sherry and John Woo Center for Big Data and Precision Health. The center will support machine learning and data research projects and opportunities for Duke faculty and students globally.

“Big data, analytics and machine learning are changing our world significantly, and nowhere will the change be more significant and meaningful than in healthcare,” Ravi V. Bellamkonda, Vinik Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering, said in a statement. “Duke Engineering and Duke Health are collaboratively leading this change, and the Woo Center will help catalyze this further by coordinating new partnerships, expanding access to diverse, well-curated datasets and fueling transformative research ideas in this space.”

The Woo Center received $3 million in funding, over three years, from philanthropist and biotech industry executive John Woo. The funding will be used to help provide opportunities for Duke faculty to work in hospitals, government agencies, organizations and biotech companies worldwide to expand the impact of data-driven health research, the university said.

The center’s initial focus, however, will be on projects aimed at developing a national network of high-tech health data parks and improving clinical care and care delivery in China.

“Big data and precision medicine have the potential to vastly improve human health, and Duke has a special role to play with its unique combination of strengths in data science and machine learning, biomedical engineering and medicine—our faculty are world leaders in each of these areas,” Larry Carin, vice provost for research, said in a statement. “Through new partnerships in China and around the world, we hope to address pressing medical issues in emerging markets and reduce disparities to improve global health.”