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Bolstering Bioinformatics Chops, Ontario Institute of Cancer Research Plans to Double Staff in Two Years

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The Ontario Institute of Cancer Research plans to nearly double its research staff over the next two years as it gears up to create a bioinformatics infrastructure to accommodate planned sequencing research, according to an institute official.
 
Last year, the Government of Ontario funneled the equivalent of $350 million into the Toronto-based institute, which, having grown out of the Ontario Cancer Research Network, aims to translate cancer research into drugs and new technologies.
 
Now its director, Tom Hudson, is pointing the center toward informatics. The OICR has already lured Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory heavyweight Lincoln Stein to run its bioinformatics efforts. Stein will come on board part-time Sept. 10 and will be a full-timer in 2009.
 
Francis Ouellette, former director of the University of British Columbia’s Bioinformatics Center, started at the OICR earlier this month as Stein’s second in command.
 
In an interview with GenomeWeb Daily News this week, Hudson, who created the McGill University and Genome Quebec Innovation Centre, said he hired Stein because he needed someone with a “big vision” to put all the people together necessary for the cancer center’s informatics plans.
 
“The idea of a clinical impact [attracted him],” Hudson said.
 
That impact has attracted almost 40 others since the institute opened last year. It currently employs 57 people, according to Hudson, who said that number will grow to more than 100 over the next two years with slots filled for biology, epidemiology, bioinformatics, and computer science.
 
So far, there are eight spots filled in the center’s Informatics and BioComputing department, which Stein oversees. Six more have been hired, including four sequencing technicians who start Aug. 27, Hudson said.
 
The cancer center is set up to accommodate a 16-node cluster, with tools provided by IBM, and has a 300-square-foot room set aside to house its server, according to Hudson. He said the facility spent around CA$1 million dollars on computer equipment.
 
Ouellette said he “set up the software and database and [will] develop the software development environment” to support Illumina’s sequencing platform, which the institute will employ .He added that the institute has to build more room and recruit systems and database people to enable the efforts.
 
“[There] will be a lot of data generated and processed, so we will buy hardware for storing and processing,” he told GenomeWeb Daily News. “Right now, we are calling around for quotes.”

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