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Research Town Hall Convenes for Discussion About Science, AI and Biobank

More Than 100 Faculty Members Join Annual Research Meeting to Get Updates on Latest Research Initiatives

Cedars-Sinai research leaders unveiled new AI tools, provided a biobank update and shared news about a medical student exchange program at the Research Town Hall held Oct. 12 in Harvey Morse Auditorium.

“These newly instated Research Town Halls are intended to create an ongoing dialogue between the research institute and investigators,” said Jeffrey Golden, MD, vice dean for Research and Graduate Education, director of the Burns and Allen Research Institute, and professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Cedars-Sinai. “Our hope is to create an open forum for faculty to express ideas and needs while also hearing firsthand about research opportunities, new developments and future planning at Cedars-Sinai.”

Golden shared several research-related updates, including an invitation to participate in Research Day, scheduled for Wednesday, March 27, 2024. The keynote lecture will be presented by David R. Liu, PhD, from the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

Golden also detailed a newly established relationship with Tsinghua University in China. Recently, Cedars-Sinai welcomed five medical students from the university to work for two years—and possibly more—in various Cedars-Sinai laboratories. The next cohort of participants will be interviewed in 2024, and Golden expects to select another five to seven students from China to participate.

“In addition to hosting the inaugural five medical students, we are in the process of exploring opportunities for Cedars-Sinai faculty to spend short periods of time studying and training at Tsinghua University with a goal of establishing research collaborations,” Golden said.

Research Town Hall attendees also heard from Graciela Gonzalez-Hernandez, PhD, vice chair for research and education in the Department of Computational Biomedicine at Cedars-Sinai. Her topic—generative AI in healthcare—challenged listeners to dissect and question ChatGPT and other AI tools.

“ChatGPT is designed to please you by providing as many details as possible, but those details often lack context and sources,” Gonzalez-Hernandez said. “The field of artificial intelligence is now shifting toward a reinforcement learning to provide a measure of checks and balance.”

Reinforcement learning perceives and interprets a particular environment, takes suitable action, then learns through trial and error, Gonzalez-Hernandez said.

“Systems utilizing reinforcement learning can learn, grow and evolve—then be rewarded for making smart, solid decisions,” she said. 

Her presentation ended with a caution and a tip.  

The caution, which Golden underscored, is that the National Institutes of Health issued a statement prohibiting any form of ChatGPT from being used when reviewing grant applications. We all must be aware of the risk of using open-source software that will make confidential or protected information publicly available.

“My tip to you is that, instead of ChatGPT, I encourage the use of generative AI with greater transparency, like Perplexity.ai,” Gonzalez-Hernandez said. “This system acts as a next-generation search engine and displays the source of the information it provides.”

The final presentation by V. Krishnan Ramanujan, PhD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Biobank and a research associate professor of Medicine at the medical center, began with an announcement about some long-awaited news.

“We just learned that the Cedars-Sinai Biobank received accreditation from the College of American Pathologists,” Ramanujan said. “This accreditation recognizes our institutional biobank as a national center of quality that meets the highest standards.”

With the accreditation in hand, Ramanujan spotlighted the biobank’s team and vision.  

The Biobank and Research Pathology Resource Program comprises four service areas: biobanking, histology, research pathology, and microscopy and image analytics. Institutional partners include Enterprise Information Services, Anatomic Pathology, Facilities Operations, the Office of Research Compliance and Quality Improvement, and the Office of Research Administration.  

“Looking ahead, we will turn to the research community to take advantage of this state-of-the-art institutional resource and ask that we work together to develop new strategic collections,” Ramanujan shared. “Our team will continue advancing our tissue microarray resources, digital pathology workflows and biomarker validation platforms.”

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