Gates Foundation to fund pediatric brain research in low-income areas

By Jenni Spinner

- Last updated on GMT

(Antiv3D/iStock via Getty Images Plus)
(Antiv3D/iStock via Getty Images Plus)

Related tags Gates Foundation Neurology Neuroscience Brain preclinical Clinical trial

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant, awarded to data management platform Flywheel, will support pediatric brain development in impoverished areas.

Flywheel, a company that provides a data management platform for research and collaboration, has landed a grant from the Bill and Melinda gates Foundation. The funding is intended to bolster research into the neurodevelopmental health of children in poverty and other adverse situations in low- and middle-income countries (LIMCs).

According to the company, the multi-year grant will focus on offering a centralized, cloud-based research infrastructure to an international cohort of researchers led by King’s College London. The teams will use the platform to curate, share, and analyze MRI scans of young children between the ages of 0 and 24 months across 25 LMICs located in Africa and Asia.

The technology reportedly offers the ability to capture data from numerous sources, automate research workflows, and enable secure sharing between the research teams. The goal is to increase productivity and eliminate the IT burdens conventionally associated with a large, multi-site initiative.

“We’re looking forward to leveraging Flywheel not only to make data easily accessible to our neuroimaging partners around the world, but also to develop shared analytic pipelines and maintain consistency and compatibility,​” said Steven Williams, professor of neuroimaging sciences at King’s College London, and a principal investigator on the project. “This project will ultimately build the knowledge and analytic capacity of LMIC researchers, allowing them to further optimize neuro-focused interventions in their settings​.”

Can Akgun, senior vice president of business development at Flywheel, said, “By leveraging our comprehensive research data solution, the team will now focus on gaining a deeper understanding of pediatric brain development rather than spending valuable time on management of data and computational workflows. We believe this research effort will make a major contribution to improving the health of future generations​.”

MRI scanners from Hyperfine have been used to acquire brain scans for this project, supported by grant funding from the Gates Foundation since 2021. The data generated to date will be migrated to the Flywheel platform, where research teams will securely access and curate the data, leverage existing algorithms, and generate custom ones with support from the Flywheel team; also, a direct connection will be established between Hyperfine and Flywheel for new scans going forward to ensure immediate access for quality checking and automated data pre-processing.

Flywheel was founded to accelerate imaging research and collaboration worldwide, which aligns perfectly with the goals of this project​,” said Jim Olson, CEO of Flywheel. “We are excited to help enable this important work in understanding brain development for those growing up in poverty​.”

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