The National Institutes of Health is looking to build largest centralized collection of COVID-19 patient data in the world.
In pursuit of that, NIH awarded Palantir Technologies a noncompetitive $36 million contract for a data enclave over the weekend.
Sought by NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), the secure network for storing and sharing scientific data manages public and private researchers’ access to clinical, laboratory and diagnostic information from healthcare institutions.
With that, Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) grantees and National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C) researchers are able to understand COVID-19 data and the disease faster with the enclave streamlining data access.
“The contractor will continue to work closely with N3C researchers to collaboratively scope and configure additional research workflows within the UNITE N3C Platform,” reads the solicitation awarded Saturday. “By integrating data from multiple sites, the platform will enable researchers to explore questions with vastly more statistical power than is achievable at individual CTSA sites, which is essential for better understanding this highly heterogeneous disease.”
NIH calls the enclave the NCATS Secure Scientific Platforms Environment, and it supports the Unified NIH Integrated Translational Environment (UNITE), which hosts the N3C data platform proof-of-concept built by Palantir in May. The noncompetitive solicitation states there were “no other sources capable of providing this government requirement.”
NCATS plans to grant more researchers access to the data, add more clinical datasets and provide new analysis modules over time.
The one-year, $36 million-ceiling contract currently consists of four task orders, which were placed Sunday to support a variety of NIH workflows related to COVID-19, cancer and AIDS.
This isn’t the first time Palantir has won a non-competitive contract since the start of the pandemic. Both the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services quickly awarded multimillion-dollar contracts to the Silicon Valley company for its data services citing the “unusual and compelling urgency” of coronavirus recovery.
But earlier this month VA put out a request for information for alternatives to the Palantir software it’s using to integrate and analyze COVID-19 data, showing a willingness to explore other options. VA said in the RFI it was unaware of other licenses that could securely integrate data in any format.