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Love/Avon Army of Women to Use NCI's caBIG Platform

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The National Cancer Institute's Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid will serve as the computational infrastructure for a joint venture between the Susan Love Research Foundation and the Avon Foundation that aims to recruit a million women to help breast cancer research.

The Love/Avon Army of Women initiative was launched last October with $1 million in funding and has so far recruited 300,000 volunteers who have agreed to provide information, tissue, or blood samples to aid breast cancer researchers.

Susan Love, co-founder of the National Breast Cancer Coalition and director of the Susan Love Breast Cancer Research Foundation, says that the caBIG tools will help breast cancer researchers access information from the resource, which will involve women with and without breast cancer.

Through caBIG and caGrid, "we can allow data sharing," Love says, adding that it is often very difficult for researchers to access the patient data they need.

Kenneth Buetow, director of the NCI Center for Bioinformatics and Information Technology and leader of caBIG, described the Army of Women project as a "living, breathing, research participatory activity" and as a "poster child" for research interconnectivity. He adds that data on 1 million women, including molecular characterizations, will be a valuable resource for the research community.

In response to questions about data security and privacy, Buetow says that security "has been an upfront consideration" and that the project is "layered on more than five years of work." He added that the caBIG technology stack is already being used for BreastCancerTrials.org, a nonprofit site that provides information about breast cancer clinical trials.

The Army of Women project will benefit from a "matching service" developed for caBIG around five years ago called caMatch that allows women with breast cancer to capture their personal health history and to find out if they qualify for clinical trials. This capability has also been adopted by BreastCancerTrials.org.

—Vivien Marx

Bioinformatics Notes

GeneGo will use a grant totaling nearly $300,000 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to develop new data management software for use in pharmacogenomics research. The Small Business Innovation Research grant will fund development of a database and systems biology tool kit for studying mutations and sequence heterogeneity in human genes and sequence variations involved in disease susceptibility and drug response.

Developers of the StarDrop drug-optimization software package have formed a new company called Optibrium to take over the business from BioFocus DPI, a division of Galapagos. StarDrop was originally developed at Inpharmatica, which Galapagos acquired in 2006 and folded into its BioFocus DPI division.

Datapoint
$2.5 Million
Total value of three NIH grants won by DNA Software to help support software development.

Funded Grants
$751,980/FY 2009
Computational Tools for Interpreting Genomes
Grantee: Xiaohui Xie, University of California, Irvine
Began: Jul. 1, 2009; Ends: Jun. 30, 2014
This award will fund the development of statistical and computational tools for comparative genome analysis and for discovering functional elements in genomes by modeling the evolutionary constraints of these functional elements from their biased nucleotide substitution patterns. The project will examine "whether substitution patterns between different nucleotides show a bias over evolutionary time," according to the grant abstract.

$524,049/FY 2009
The REDfly Database of Transcriptional
Regulatory Elements
Grantee: Marc Halfon, SUNY at Buffalo
Began: Aug. 1, 2009; Ends: Jul. 31, 2012
Halfon intends to develop a database and software tools to study gene regulation via transcriptional cis-regulatory modules. The grantees have constructed the REDfly (Regulatory Element Database for Fly) database of regulatory elements for Drosophila melanogaster and will continue to develop and expand the database into "a fully comprehensive resource," according to the abstract.

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