As I’ve often said, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) has been doing open data since before open data was cool.  NLM has now built on its outstanding track record of promoting open innovation utilizing their immense information holdings by hosting their first challenge competition:  “Show off Your Apps: Innovative Uses of NLM Information.” A big tip of the hat to Dr. Don Lindberg, NLM Director, Betsy Humphreys, and their incredible team for hosting this project, which challenged innovators to create apps that harness NLM’s vast data and information resources to help improve health.

This contest was part of a year-long celebration of the 175th anniversary of the NLM — and what a way to mark this impressive milestone!  The five winning and five honorable mention teams were hosted by NLM today at a lively celebration on the campus of the National Institutes of Health where Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, and I were on hand to honor these champions.  Honorees included teams of researchers, technology developers, and informatics experts from all across America who are passionate about helping to improve health through the power of data.

Winning applications spanned an impressive array of uses.  One team built a clever iPhone app designed to help users better understand and learn about human anatomy using NLM’s Visual Human ProjectⓇ data.  Another winning team created a tool that enables users to search 59 NLM databases across all areas of biomedicine and health via a simple, powerful user interface.  Another app developer created a tool that utilizes NLM’s Entrez Programming Utilities to help researchers easily answer questions like, “Which genes are related to breast cancer?”

This event and the winning applications demonstrate the impressive ingenuity that can be unleashed through open data and open innovation.  And this is only the tip of the iceberg. One can only imagine what value these tools can help unlock and what else lies ahead. Get more information about the NLM apps challenge. Kudos to the winners of the challenge!

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