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NSF Funds $40M in States' 'Omics Research Infrastructure

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Science Foundation has given two grants each totaling $20 million over five years to support infrastructure and technologies for genomics and computational biology projects based in Hawaii and Mississippi.

Granted under the NSF's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) in the Office of Integrative Activities, these Research Infrastructure Improvement Track 1 awards are aimed at improving research competitiveness in states and at enhancing their academic science infrastructure.

The broader goal of the EPSCoR is to strengthen research and education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics throughout the US, and to avoid undue concentration of such research and education.

The grant to Hawaii will support research programs into the effects of invasive species, human activity, and climate change on Hawaiian Island biodiversity, and it includes the University of Hawaii-Manoa, the University of Hawaii-Hilo, Kapiolani Community College, and Chaminade University.

One component will use ecological genomics and metabolomics to identify endemic plant and animal species in certain areas to be studied for genetic and adaptive responses.

"Support from NSF through EPSCoR will significantly enhance the ability of Hawaii's research community to understand and predict ecological changes resulting from various human impacts," University of Hawaii's VP for Research, James Gaines, said in a statement.

"The development of high performance computing models and new 3-D visualization systems gives us information that can help us make informed decisions regarding public policy and land use that will benefit both the people and environment of Hawaii," Gaines added.

The Mississippi grant will focus on merging biology and chemistry by using computational investigation and simulation.

The computational biology efforts will focus on developing new methods for integrating functional genomics information from high-throughput sources such as microarrays and next-generation gene sequencers, according to NSF. The biological simulation work will include using physiological modeling methods of problems, such as particle deposition in the lungs.

These grants will support Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi, Jackson State University, the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Mississippi College.

"This award allows us to continue to build our infrastructure and to foster collaboration between institutions," explained Sandra Harpole, associate vice president for research at Mississippi State University. "It will also enhance our ability to be recognized in the field nationally and internationally."

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