$18 million bioinformatics center to become weapon against deadly diseases

A computer database designed to help biomedical scientists identify and exploit the weak spots in scores of deadly microorganisms will be established with an $18 million contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health.

Overseeing the effort will be the Computation Institute, a joint effort between the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, and the Fellowship for Interpretation of Genomes, a non-profit organization specializing in bioinformatics tool development and comparative genomics research.

They will use the funds to set up a National Microbial Pathogen Data Resource Center to help scientists to accelerate their research into the biology and evolution of deadly microorganisms and develop methods for their control.

The new center will provide infectious disease researchers a single Web-based entry point to all relevant organism-related data necessary for their advanced research. The genomes (genetic maps) of hundreds and eventually thousands of microorganisms will be available for integrated analysis.

"The center will directly support the national effort to develop new vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases," said Computation Institute Director Rick Stevens, who will co- direct the center.

"A central goal of the center will be to gather all existing data on these organisms and embed this data within a framework that will support researchers in their efforts to understand them," said center Co-Director Ross Overbeek.

Working together at the center will be a team of experts in biology, biophysics, microbiology, computer science and bioinformatics (the application of mathematics and computer science to biological problems).

Stevens, a Professor in Computer Science at the University of Chicago and Director of the Mathematics and Computer Science Division at Argonne, specia

Contact: Steve Koppes
University of Chicago

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