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DOE Mulls Genomics Web Portal


Higher-ups at the US Department of Energy hope to launch a genomics Web portal that could vastly expand and improve public data access. Trevor Hawkins, deputy director of DOE’s Joint Genome Institute, told BioInform that work has just begun on an initiative that he began promoting last year.


The as yet unnamed site would be “a sort of bio Yahoo,” Hawkins said. He described the portal as a “layer cake” that would host genomic tools and information such as gene expression, protein structure, and clinical data.


Elbert Branscomb, director of the institute, said the plan, on which it could spend several million dollars developing, is still being cooked up among colleagues who “hope to mount a significant effort.”


“We think portals of this type will be among the most important resources as we become data dominated and comprehension limited,” Branscomb said.


The site would have different goals from the US National Institutes of Health’s GenBank, according to Branscomb. “Everyone realizes that current portals such as GenBank are far from what we need. The challenge to us would be to lead the world in trying to provide the best tools for and best insight into comparative genomics.”


Hawkins said that he has begun hiring staff for the project and that the DOE has already reserved supercomputing time for the project at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Branscomb added that the institute has had “preliminary talks” with computer engineers and mathematics experts at other national laboratories and at private companies. They said no launch date for the portal has been set.


--Adrienne Burke and Jennifer Friedlin


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