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Canadian Institute of Molecular Biology Gets Funding to Boost Computing Power

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HALIFAX, NS--Canada's bioinformatics effort is getting a boost from a federal grant of $30 million to the National Research Council. According to Christoph Sensen, group leader for genomics at the Institute of Molecular Biology here, some of the money will be used to double the number of Perkin-Elmer and Licor sequencers at the institute to 10 and to augment an already strong computing capacity. "We have a local network of computers entirely dedicated to bioinformatics, but nationwide the NRC has more than 50 Sun workstations from Halifax to Vancouver," Sensen remarked.

The NRC is in turn networked to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory's EMBNet and to the Asia Pacific Bio Network, with links to genomics efforts from Singapore to Beijing. Current sequencing efforts at the IMB include an environmental microbe, the archaeon Sulfolobus sulfatericus, whose unusual sulfur biochemical pathways could be harnessed for desulfurizing coal, petroleum, and rubber. Just commencing is an 18-month effort to sequence the 4.6 megabase genome of Aeromonas salmonicida, a major pathogen of aquacultured salmon. Sequencing and analysis of other organisms with human and animal health implications are also underway with unnamed industrial partners. The Institute of Molecular Biology is engaged in other collaborations: one with a proteomics venture called Kinetek in Vancouver; another with Xenon, a genetic disease company also in Vancouver; and hardware development collaborations with Licor and with Sciex of Toronto. In addition to a strong genomics position, Canada is also a leader in network hardware and software. "Eighty percent of all networking equipment is developed and first deployed in Canada," Sensen noted. A next-generation "CAnet3" internet system being implemented now will, over the next three years, tie together research efforts from Newfoundland to Victoria and beyond at speeds up to 300 gigabits.

--Potter Wickware

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