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NCI s Biomedical Informatics Grid to Extend Participation to Commercial Vendors

BETHESDA, Md., April 12 (GenomeWeb News) - The National Cancer Institute's Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid project, or caBIG, plans to expand its scope over the next year to include several new domain areas as well as participation from commercial vendors, according to Ken Buetow, director of the NCI Center for Bioinformatics and coordinator of the caBIG program.


Addressing an audience of nearly 400 people at the second caBIG annual meeting here, Buetow said the project -- which aims to link computational resources and research data across more than 50 NCI-supported cancer centers by 2010 -- is "where we figured we should be at the completion of the first year."


Looking forward, he said, the project will move beyond the three core domain areas for which it has focused on building tools and standards -- clinical trials management, tissue banking, and integrative cancer research - to several new areas over the next year, including imaging, proteomics, and systems biology.


In addition, he said that caBIG will work with the Food and Drug Administration to develop and pilot a "common infrastructure" that will support the regulatory requirements associated with the development of cancer drugs.


Finally, he said, caBIG will invite the commercial sector to become a "full partner" in moving the caBIG architecture forward. The project has so far been led by the academic community, with primary contributions from the NCI and the member cancer centers. However, Buetow said, there has been a great deal of interest from both the vendor community and the user community in integrating commercial tools into the framework.


The caBIG project was launched with a strict "mantra" of "open source, open access, open development, and federation," Buetow said -- a factor that he acknowledged might discourage participation from some commercial software and hardware vendors.


However, he noted that many caBIG "products" are actually open interfaces that could be used to integrate proprietary software into the larger framework. In addition, he said, NCI envisions that caBIG will ultimately provide a foundation for "new business models built upon the support and maintenance and extension of caBIG-developed tools."


Diane Oliver of health IT firm Cerner noted during a Q&A session following Buetow's talk that her company is "very interested" in the data standards coming out of caBIG. She added that Cerner has developed its own terminology of around 5,000 genes and polymorphisms used in the clinical setting (freely available here), and welcomed feedback from the meeting attendees.  


Buetow said that caBIG participants will discuss details of commercial involvement in the project over the summer, and that a formal meeting to discuss possible mechanisms will be held some time this fall.

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