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Cold Spring Harbor, Sanger Institute Plan Expansions for Bioinformatics Infrastructure

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New York’s Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the UK’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute are going to their respective drawing boards to plan new data centers to support their bioinformatics research.

Two weeks ago, Cold Spring Harbor Lab was awarded $20 million from New York state to fund the construction of a new bioinformatics research center. An addi-tional $15 million is expected to come from federal and other sources, although the details of the additional funding sources are not yet known, according to Bruce Stillman, director and CEO of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Stillman, pleased by the “vision” of Governor George Pataki and the state’s senators who secured the funding for the lab, noted that the center couldn’t come at a better time. “At the moment we have bioinformatics people in various buildings scattered across the campus here, literally in old apartments and greenhouses,” he said. While noting that these ad hoc facilities are renovated, fully functional, and “quite nice,” a centralized facility for network operations and other activities is certainly needed.

CSHL is in the process of hiring new bioinformatics staff, Stillman said, and the question of who will be housed in the center remains up in the air. He pointed out that the lab, which prides itself on its interactive culture, could suffer if the entire bioinformatics team were sequestered. “It may make some sense to not put everybody in the same space,” he said. “I think having bioinformatics people interact with other biologists is actually very important.”

One thing is certain — the lab’s non-hierarchical structure means it won’t be seeking a director for the new bioinformatics center. Noted Stillman, “Once you do that it tends to become an entity unto itself, and we’re a very integrative institution. There are no departments here, for instance, and there are no department heads. Everybody is a PI.”

Despite the fact that the planning process is still in its early stages, Stillman does have a few items on his wish list. For one thing, he envisions the lab’s bioinformatics activities expanding more into comparative genomics and knowledge science. As for the center itself, “it’s actually a series of buildings that are adjacent to each other and the bioinformatics component will be right in the middle of all the others. It’s going to be a little cluster that will work very well.”

Sanger, meanwhile, is “now heavily into the detailed design” of its own plans for a new data center, according to Phil Butcher, head of IT. Construction of the data center, part of a 27,000 square-meter expansion of the Genome Center Campus, is supported by the Wellcome Trust’s £300 million ($47 million) five-year spending plan for the Sanger Institute. Butcher said the 1,000 square-meter data center should be complete in 2005.

Up to 10,000 square meters of the new construction at the Genome Campus will be devoted to acad-emic buildings. An additional 3,000 square meters is earmarked for meeting rooms and other ancillary facilities, while 14,000 square meters will be devoted to commercial facilities, including a 5,000 square-meter Innovation Center for start-up businesses and 9,000 square meters for expanding businesses.

— BT

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