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May 2004 Issue

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Third Frontier Network Propels Genome Research

Published May 2004

UC's Genome Research Institute was the host of the second demonstration of Ohio's new Third Frontier Network (TFN), an effort to connect hospitals and medical research labs across the state, making Ohio a world leader in using technologically advanced networking to improve health care research and education.

TFN-connected Ohio hospitals and medical research labs will be able to share medical images and collaborate on research, education and service programs.

"By linking colleges, universities, research labs and hospitals, the Third Frontier Network will improve health care and remote medical consultation," said Roderick G. W. Chu, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. "Critical scientific and industrial research facilitated over the network will generate important new economic opportunity and high-paying jobs for Ohioans."

GRI will be linked with other Ohio researchers via TFN to share expensive instruments and educational resources for disease analysis and treatment. For example, the network will allow researchers at one university to view the output of a scientific instrument at a research lab 100 miles away, reducing the time and costs currently incurred in research and development.

Medicine requires graphically rich images for patient care, medical education and research. These vary from photographic images of skin conditions to MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans. Images showing medical conditions in great detail require significant bandwidth when sent across a network. In the past, collaboration with remote medical staff has been limited by the difficulty of fully sharing medical images over computer networks.

GRI practices a multi-layered approach to gene and protein databases to understand, treat and prevent diseases such as cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. With partners such as Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals, Wright State University, Case Western Reserve University and Cincinnati Children's, GRI has a number of on-site resources that can be shared by other state medical facilities.

David Millhorn, GRI director, states that TFN will allow the GRI to collaborate more effectively with other universities and industry partners. Sharing computational and technological resources will be key to understanding diseases, developing drug treatments, and saving time and money.

"With the Third Frontier network, we can make the entire state a virtual laboratory," said Dr. Millhorn. "As we continue to enhance the research infrastructure here, many of the technologies we will offer investigators may not reside at the GRI - they may be in Cleveland, Columbus, some other Ohio site, or maybe even in California."

A crucial element in TFN's southwest region implementation has been its relationship with the Cincinnati Education Research Fiber Loop (CERF), a consortium of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, UC, OARnet and other southern Ohio schools. The CERF project began in 2003 with a donation from Procter & Gamble to create a dedicated set of fiber-optic cables to be used by colleges and universities, hospitals, K_12 schools and research labs in the Cincinnati and southern Ohio region.

Cincinnati State's main and Evendale campuses, as well as UC's main campus and GRI, are online with CERF. Future participants include Xavier University, Hamilton County and Cincinnati Public Schools SchoolNet sites.

OARnet, OSC's networking division, is currently installing and testing optical fiber switches and equipment in Cincinnati. Completion is expected by summer 2004. The statewide TFN backbone is scheduled to be operational by fall 2004, with colleges and universities connected by September.

More information on TFN is available at

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