The contracts were awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, part of the NIH, with $8.7 million designated for UT Southwestern.
The contracts will create separate bioinformatics resources the BioHealthBase Bioinformatics Resource Center for Biodefense and Emerging/Re-emerging Infectious Diseases, and the Immunology Database and Analysis Portal (ImmPort). Each will include databases and software that researchers can use to improve drug discovery and vaccine development.
"We knew these projects would require joint expertise in biology and computing. This is truly a team effort between information technology systems developers from Northrop Grumman and research scientists from UT Southwestern and elsewhere," said Dr. Richard Scheuermann, professor of pathology at UT Southwestern and principal investigator of both subcontracts.
The BioHealthBase will focus on research related to how microbes such as the influenza virus and the tuberculosis bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, establish infections and how the body responds to them. A pathogen, such as the tuberculosis bacterium, interacts with cells in the host's body, leading to changes in gene and protein activity within both the bacterium and host cell. In order for the infection to persist, the pathogen must overtake the cell, shutting down various signals or setting up decoys in order to survive undetected.
Current microorganism databases focus on gene-sequence information, said Dr. Scheuermann. Through the BioHealthBase, researchers will not only get gene-
Contact: Megha Satyanarayana
UT Southwestern Medical Center