Virginia Bioinformatics Institute central to Regional Center of Excellence

Blacksburg, Va. -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a five-year, $42 million grant to establish a mid-Atlantic Regional Center of Excellence (RCE) for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (www.niaid.nih.gov/newsroom/releases/HHS_RCE.HTM). Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech will serve as the genomics and bioinformatics core for the 15-university collaboration led by the University of Maryland.

"Scientists, health professionals and the public have come to recognize that the world's human population comprises a global village," said Mike Levine, director of the center for vaccine development of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and RCE project leader. "Most pathogens, however, have global reservoirs that do not respect national borders. We are pleased that renowned university experts will work together in this strategic and coordinated effort to protect citizens against infectious disease agents and potential bioterrorism threats."

Several diseases including anthrax, hemorrhagic fever, tularemia, and smallpox, as well as public health response research including needle-free immunization programs, will be investigated by this new center. Specifically, VBI will provide high-performance laboratory infrastructure including genomic and gene expression sample analysis. Additionally, VBI will provide supercomputing capabilities and informatics software platforms to connect the numerous collaborators. The RCE team will leverage VBI's PathPort, short for Pathogen Portal, a Department of Defense-funded informatics platform designed to enable data gathering, storage, analysis and, integration.

"Understanding the underlying biology of infectious diseases poses incredibly complex challenges," said VBI Director Bruno Sobral. "VBI and other Virginia Tech researchers are pleased to bring genomics and bioinformatic

Contact: Neysa Call
Virginia Tech

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