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UCSD Gets $6.5M NIH Grant to Fund New Network Biology Center

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A new center created to apply the torrent of data from the operations of biological networks to the development of new treatments and therapies is being funded through a five-year, $6.5 million grant from the NIH's National Center for Research Resources.

The National Resource for Network Biology — to be based at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine — is designed to allow researchers access to more and better tools for conducting advanced studies of biological systems, resulting in more sophisticated models of how human systems function. According to UCSD, NRNB's research will identify disease biomarkers and molecular targets for potential drugs, define genetic risk factors and decipher how individual or group lifestyles, such as social networks, affect the development and transmission of disease.

NRNB's principal investigator will be Trey Ideker, associate professor of bioengineering in UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering, and chief of the Division of Genetics at UCSD's School of Medicine.

UCSD said the center is designed to apply knowledge gleaned from all the molecular interactions within cells – such as those described and visualized through Cytoscape, an online open-source platform developed by Ideker.

Alexander Pico, bioinformatic group leader at The Gladstone Institutes at UC San Francisco, will serve as executive director of the NRNB.

Other researchers set to collaborate within the new center include James Fowler, a UCSD professor in the School of Medicine and Division of Social Sciences who specializes in social networks; Bruce Conklin of The Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease; Chris Sander of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York; Gary Bader of the University of Toronto; and Benno Schwikowski of France's Institut Pasteur.

NRNB is the only center of its type to be funded this year by NIH, and the fourth NCRR-funded biomedical technology center to be based at UCSD. The other three are the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, the National Biomedical Computation Resource, and the Center for Computational Mass Spectrometry.