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NIGMS to Establish Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

PHILADELPHIA, July 30 – The National Institute of General Medical Sciences is in the process of recruiting a director for a new bioinformatics and computational biology center that it will establish within a year, NIGMS director Marvin Cassman said Monday at the 15 th Symposium of The Protein Society in Philadelphia.

The new center will centralize funding decisions and grant outlays for bioinformatics, computational biology, and the modeling of biological systems at the National Institutes of Health, Cassman said. The NIGMS is one institute within NIH.


, and “will be underway within a year from now,” Cassman said. 

While Cassman could not say exactly how much money in total the new center would be in charge of appropriating, the initiative has NIH approval and would most likely have a budget on “an order of magnitude” of $50 million to $100 million, he told GenomeWeb. The center has a mandate to promote collaborations between large research groups, develop and improve access to research tools, and encourage new approaches to training researchers in the study of complex biological systems, he added.

“It’s an attempt to coordinate an effort to understand the flow of information in biological systems, and these systems’ behavior,” Cassman said. “We’re running it out of our back pocket at the moment, but we need full-time commitment to develop all that’s needed in this area.”

Specifically, the initiative would help foster the development of new tools in pattern recognition, as applied to expression array analysis, and in the modeling of logical flows of information and complex networks of interactions in cells. NIGMS is currently funding projects to investigate the role of G-protein coupled receptors in signal transduction and the role of SNPs in determining patients’ response to certain drugs.

The new center will follow in the footsteps of several other large academic initiatives to focus on modeling complex biological systems. In December of last year, the University of California said it would establish the California Institute for Bioengineering, Biotechnology and Quantitative Biomedicine, with facilities at UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley, and UC Santa Cruz. In addition, the Institute for Systems Biology, founded by several former University of Washington researchers, and the Cell Systems Initiative at the University of Washington are also hoping to specialize in the modeling of complex biological systems.

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