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Buffalo Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics Ready to Launch with $200 Million in Funding

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The Buffalo Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics, proposed earlier this year by New York governor George Pataki, is well on its way to becoming a reality with $50 million in state funding and more than $150 million in private-sector funding.

Pataki first proposed the center — a joint effort between New York State, industry partners, and academic institutions — in January as part of his $1 billion high-tech Centers of Excellence proposal [see BioInform, 5-18-01]. Less than a year later, the hard work of administrators and faculty from the University of Buffalo, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute to attract corporate funding has paid off.

In addition to New York State’s contribution of $50 million, Veridian is pitching in $62.5 million, Compaq has pledged $42.6 million, InforMax will provide $20.8 million, a group of western New York businesses is investing $15 million, Stryker Communications is providing $7.2 million to create a communications network for the center, and Dell and Sun Microsystems together are providing more than $1 million.

Other industry partners include Invitrogen, Q-Chem, SGI, Amersham Pharmacia Biotech, AT&T, Wyeth Lederle, Human Genome Sciences, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Compaq will supply Alpha computers to the center as part of its commitment, while InforMax will act as the center’s bioinformatics software partner.

Richard Melzer, senior vice president of sales and marketing at InforMax, said the company would provide “a variety” of GenoMax modules as well as a Vector NTI license for all UB researchers and collaborators. Potentially thousands of researchers across the state could have access to InforMax software through the center, Melzer said.

In addition, InforMax will house four to six full-time employees at the center “to make sure that the system delivers what they’re hoping.”

Pataki optimistically predicted that the center would “spawn the next generation of Dr. Venters and the next generation of Celera Genomics here in the Buffalo area.”

The center will be based in a 150,000-square-foot facility to be built near Buffalo’s medical corridor. The facility, which will serve as a joint academic/industry co-locator facility, will contain drug-design and research laboratories, high-performance computational facilities, 3D visualization capabilities, product commercialization space, and workforce training facilities.

“Small bioinformatics firms can move here and have access to the supercomputer and the wetlabs and the testing facilities, which they couldn’t afford to do on their own,” said Elizabeth Capaldi, UB provost. Capaldi added that the university hopes to spin off companies based on its own intellectual property as well.

The co-locator building, scheduled for completion in 2004, will house 200 occupants from both academia and industry who will work side by side.

Capaldi said the search is still on for a director of the center, who will then hire additional scientists and support staff. The university also intends to hire new faculty in informatics, computer science, pharmacy, and medicine to support the center’s activities.

— BT

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