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Bioinformatics Briefs: Jan 2, 2009

NCI’s caBIG Seeks Proposals for In Silico Research Centers
The National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid program is seeking proposals for a series of In Silico Research Centers that will offer bioinformatics support to cancer researchers. 
According to a solicitation issued in mid-December and available here, the centers will perform “in silico, hypothesis-driven research using data analysis, aggregation and mining focused on discovery using caBIG and other publicly available cancer-related data sources.”
The solicitation said that NCI’s Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology will provide funding for the centers, but did not disclose further details on the amount of funding available.
“The primary goal of the ISRC will be to add scientific value to the large-scale datasets developed as part of the caBIG program, and currently accessible through the caGrid,” the solicitation stated. “ISRC will utilize tools developed as part of the caBIG program, as well as other open-source or commercial tools as needed to accomplish the desired goals of making novel discoveries that have the potential to rapidly advance our understanding of cancer etiology and its effective treatment and prevention.”
The solicitation is open to academic or commercial organizations with expertise in computational biology, informatics analysis, statistics, genomics, proteomics, or image analysis. 
Proposals are due on Feb. 5. 

NHGRI Informatics Training Programs Could Become Bioinformatics Centers
The National Institutes of Health said recently that it will devote around $1.5 million this year to fund the development of informatics training programs that could become regional, national, or international centers of excellence in informatics education and bioinformatics centers.
The program, which will fund five or six new grants with up to $230,000 for five years, is being led by the Fogarty International Center in collaboration with the National Human Genome Research Institute and the National Library of Medicine.
These grants will be used to establish or continue informatics programs focused on global health and aimed at addressing the particular needs of institutions in low- and middle-income countries.
NIH expects that these institutions will develop sustainable training programs and that they will become centers of excellence that train individuals who use informatics to apply information systems and communication technologies to global health research.
These research programs also should address specific research-related informatics needs of biomedical and research communities of foreign institutions and raise awareness of and access to informatics resources, which could include short-term training, workshops, or symposia.
Some programs that are more advanced in their informatics studies may use the funds to develop a network of institutions that jointly offer training and research in informatics, and others may help institutions in low- to middle-income countries to develop their own informatics capacities.
Among the “pressing needs” identified are sharing of multidisciplinary data among multiple sites involved in global health research and clinical trials, the ability to archive and retrieve new data types, including the data captured in image files, and being able to link information systems to PDAs, smart phones, and other mobile devices. When local experts are trained, they will be able to build and maintain resources such as databases, and other informatics research tools
More information about the program is available here.

Barcelona Teams to Lead $7M EU Malaria, Diabetes Studies
A group of scientists in Spain will lead studies of malaria and diabetes that will focus on ‘omics’ and bioinformatics with €5 million ($7 million) in funding from the European Commission between 2009 and 2011.
The Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Barcelona will coordinate both research projects, which are part of the second call of the EU's Seventh Framework Program.
In one project, researchers will seek to understand proteins involved in malaria transmission that may be used to inhibit the disease. Called Mephitis, the project is led by Lluis Ribas de Pouplana, head of the Gene Translation Laboratory at IRB Barcelona. These studies will include two groups in Barcelona, two in India, one in France, one in Italy, one from Portugal, and another from Australia.
Ribas de Pouplana said we currently “have enough knowledge about protein synthesis in organisms such as the bacteria E. coli or the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and we now want to transfer this knowledge base to organisms of medical relevance such as Plasmodium,” which will help scientists to “fight effectively against the parasite.”
This study will involve experts from several specialty areas, including genome dynamics, bioinformatics, proteomics, transcriptomics, and Plasmodium biology, IRB said.
The second research area funded under the program will involve using bioinformatics to gather information about diabetes and other diseases that are the results of a combination of genetic and environmental factors, IRB said. These studies will be led by Antonio Zorzano, head of the Molecular Medicine Program at IRB Barcelona and a senior professor at the University of Barcelona.
This consortium will involve six groups, and will aim to identify the processes that happen in mitochondria that are at the root of insulin resistance, which increases the risk of diabetes and coronary disease, and may be related to hypertension and obesity.
Zorzano said in a statement that systems biology “can hold and integrate many data about a single disease and can reveal the existence of gene networks and interactions between proteins that are responsible for the key alterations in a disease."

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