A research team at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science’s (CDU) Center for Biomedical Informatics was awarded a $1.95 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The funding will support the development of data-driven computational approaches for predicting diabetic retinopathy, a diabetes complication that creates vision problems and is the leading cause of blindness in adults between the ages of 20 and 74 years in the U.S.
Led by Associate Professor Omolola Ogunyemi, Ph.D., the research team will create two solutions for diabetic retinopathy. The first solution will be software that utilizes information from clinical records to detect latent diabetic retinopathy in diabetic patients who have not yet received an annual eye examination. The second will use image processing and machine learning techniques to speed up the diabetic retinopathy detection process for diabetic patients who have had digital retinal images taken.
“There is a large disparity in annual eye examination rates among people with diabetes who live in medically underserved or under-resourced areas of the U.S. and those who have good access to specialty eye care services,” said Dr. Ogunyemi. “Thanks to this grant from the NIH, we will be able to create new technologies to help all people struggling with diabetes detect these potentially debilitating eye complications in a timely manner.”
The project, entitled “Predicting Diabetic Retinopathy from Risk Factor Data and Digital Retinal Images,” will be carried out in partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services and University of California, Los Angeles. It will build on prior work on teleretinal screening for diabetic retinopathy in South Los Angeles by Dr. Ogunyemi and her team.
The Research Project Grant (R01) is the original and historically oldest grant awarded by NIH. It is one of the primary mechanisms the NIH has for investigator-initiated original research. The four-year project will be funded by the National Library of Medicine beginning September 30, 2016.
“This substantial grant from NIH is a major milestone for CDU and the Center for Biomedical Informatics,” said Dr. Jay Vadgama CDU Vice President for Research and Health Affairs. “By incorporating cutting-edge research with the latest technology, CDU is using innovative methods to continue its mission of promoting health equity in South Los Angeles and beyond.”
CDU President Dr. David Carlisle said, “This research grant from the NIH will create new computational solutions that address preventable blindness from diabetic retinopathy and, in so doing, will help to reduce health disparities in this area. The work underscores the mission of Charles R. Drew University and the impact our faculty and students continue to have on reducing health disparities.”