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Genome Quebec Enlists IT Partner, Local Universities to Boost Quebecois Bioinformatics

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Génome Québec, a non-profit investment organization with the mission of promoting genomics and proteomics in the Canadian province, pledged its support for bioinformatics on two fronts last week. The organization first said it plans to invest CA$4 million (US$2.8 million) in a consortium of universities that will train more than 40 bioinformatics researchers in the region. It also said that it is partnering with IT consulting firm CGI Group to develop “a comprehensive and integrated bioinformatics platform” for researchers in Québec.

“These two announcements are the cornerstones of the Québec bioinformatics strategy,” according to Génome Québec, which was launched in April 2001 and had invested a total of CA$170 million (US$120 million) in fifteen different projects as of the end of 2002. The investment in bioinformatics is expected to provide the infrastructure to advance further research in genomics and proteomics in the region.

On the educational front, the organization has so far approved two programs: one under Robert Nadon at McGill University and the other under Herve Philippe of the Université de Montreal.

Génome Québec did not disclose the financial arrangements of its five-year agreement with CGI. Muriel McGrath, CGI’s executive director of life sciences, said the deal comprises three components: a contract to build an integrated bioinformatics platform; the development of genotyping software tools to support Génome Québec’s involvement in the international HapMap project; and the use of CGI’s newly launched Life Sciences Services Center (LS2C) — a facility powered by Sun Microsystems hardware and software that provides fee-based IT hosting and services to life science researchers.

According to McGrath, the partnership with Génome Québec helps validate CGI’s bioinformatics activities. A component of CGI’s well-established healthcare IT services group, which employees more than 600 people in Canada and the US, the 25-member bioinformatics group got its start in 2001 when it helped built Caprion Pharmaceuticals’ bioinformatics infrastructure [BioInform 07-02-01]. “Since then, it has not stopped,” she said. The group’s primary task for the past two years has been getting the LS2C up and running, and the facility now offers a selection of LIMS, public databases, and software tools “integrated into a single frame of reference” for genomics, proteomics, and clinical research, McGrath said.

— BT

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