Converting Geospatial Observations into Socioeconomic Data

The World Data Lab (WDL), along with its research partners, will deploy new methods in data collection, data curation and dissemination, laying the groundwork to advance social and economic research on poverty in the most underdeveloped regions worldwide. The challenge is to convert vast amounts of unstructured data into regular socio-economic forecasts. Against this background, a major part of the research funded by NOMIS is dedicated to the development of the first-ever sub-national income model for Kenya, which, when developed, can be subsequently adapted for other countries. By cooperating with local authorities, the interdisciplinary research team will complement geospatial data, as retrieved, for example, from high-definition satellite photographs, with other largely untapped data sources. If completed successfully, the project will yield a new dataset providing granular information on social patterns and income, the insights from which will be made available to researchers worldwide through innovative tools and products.

Founded by economists, including Dr. Homi Kharas, former Chief Economist at the World Bank, the WDL is a social enterprise with a strong focus on research and has a strategic partnership with the Vienna University of Economics and Business  (WU) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). The project is being led by Prof. Jesus Crespo Cuaresma, Head of the Institute of Macroeconomics at WU.

NOMIS Awardee Karl Deisseroth wins 4 million euro Fresenius Research Prize

NOMIS Awardee Karl Deisseroth, Stanford psychiatrist, neuroscientist and bioengineer, has won the Else Kröner Fresenius Preis für Medizinische Forschung 2017. The prize — world’s most valuable prize for scientific achievement — is presented every four years to a single scientist and comes with a cash award of 4 million euros.

Read the full article published by the Stanford Medicine News Center >>
Read the German article published by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung >>

Hybrid Semiconductor — Superconductor Quantum Devices

Embedded in the research infrastructure of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria), the hybrid quantum devices project is working towards answering some of the fundamental questions of quantum physics. Specifically, the research team will investigate how to use the quantum state of microscopic nanofabricated physical systems as building blocks for the elusive vision of a quantum computer — a device that can address problems not solvable with classical computers. Important open questions include how to improve the coherence time of superconducting qubits (the basic unit of information in a quantum computer), how to couple distant long-lived spin qubits, and to understand the character of Majorana fermions (quantum particles that are their own antiparticles).

While industry-funded research programs are tackling this frontier of quantum physics with an explicit application in mind, the IST Austria research team is launching a purely insight-driven, experimental approach. It includes the development of new types of devices consisting of a combination of semiconducting and superconducting elements while focusing on maximizing the quality of individual qubits, so that error correction — which usually requires significant resources — can be kept to a minimum. The project is structured along three research objectives, namely: the coupling of spin qubits to superconducting resonators, the integration of Majorana fermions into superconducting circuits, and the improvement of physical qubits for the hardware layer of a future error-corrected quantum processor.

The project is being led by  Georgios Katsaros and Johannes Fink at the IST Austria.

New director of the NOMIS Center for Immunibiology and Microbial Pathogenesis

Susan Kaech, currently professor of Immunbiology at Yale University, will join Salk as director of the NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis beginning 2018. Kaech studies how immune cells — called T cells — remember infectious agents our bodies have previously encountered in order to mount a more rapid response the next time we’re exposed to them.

In her current position as Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology at Yale University, she has studied T cell memory in the context of vaccine effectiveness, chronic viral infections and immune system suppression by cancer. Her lab has been a leader in elucidating the mechanisms responsible for T cell memory and, as part of the rapidly advancing field of cancer immunotherapy, Kaech is studying ways of harnessing the immune system to attack tumors.

Kaech is a recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist award, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the Edward Mallinckrodt Jr. award and the Burroughs-Wellcome Foundation award. She has been named an investigator of the American Asthma Foundation and the Cancer Research Institute. Kaech received her PhD from Stanford University and her BS from the University of Washington.

“The research that people are doing at Salk is spectacular — really cutting-edge — and the tools that the labs are using to answer questions are very powerful and exciting,” says Kaech. “I hope that being at Salk will push me to think about problems in a different manner or with different technologies that may ultimately lead to new understandings or new ways of thinking about the function of our immune system.”

Platform for the Discovery of Alzheimer’s Disease Mechanisms and Treatments

There is an urgent need to clarify the brain processes involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and to use this information to discover effective ways to treat and prevent the disease. While studies in animal, cellular and other laboratory models play essential roles in this endeavor, detailed molecular data from persons with and without AD are needed to further inform these experimental studies and clarify the extent to which findings are relevant to this fundamentally human disease.

In this four-year project, NOMIS funds will be used to develop an unprecedented public resource of detailed gene expression data from human brain cells and regions that differ in the vulnerability or resilience to AD and help to galvanize the discovery of disease mechanisms, risk factors and treatments. The project will capitalize on high-quality brain tissue from 100 longitudinally, neuropathologically and genetically characterized brain donors with and without AD.  Emerging “big data” analysis techniques will be used to discover molecular networks involved in the disease and molecular drivers of these networks, including those that could be targeted by new or repurposed treatments.

This platform will foster interactions between researchers involved in studies of the human AD brain and experimental researchers who validate the molecular drivers, seek to clarify the generalizability of their own findings to the human disease, and discover paths for future treatments. In addition, it will provide a foundation to develop one of the largest basic and translational neuroscience programs for the fight against AD and other neurodegenerative diseases.

The project is led by Eric Reiman, Winnie Liang, Thomas Beach, Ben Readhead and Joel Dudley from Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, Banner Sun Health Research Institute, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), the Arizona State University-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center, and the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium.