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NIAID s Bioinformatics Spending Spree: Agency Commits $79M to Network of Biodefense BRCs

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Last week, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded around $79 million in five-year contracts to establish six national Bioinformatics Research Centers that will support research in biodefense and infectious disease (see table, below, for details of awards).

The BRCs will coordinate genomics, proteomics, biochemical, and microbiological information related to multiple organisms that NIAID has identified as Category A, B, or C pathogens. The centers will be responsible for developing and maintaining relational databases to collect a variety of data types, such as genome sequence, comparative genomics data, genome polymorphisms, gene expression data, proteomics, host/pathogen interactions, and pathways. The BRCs will also provide data analysis tools, as well as training for the general scientific community on how to use and interpret data contained in the database.

The bioinformatics funding follows a parallel effort that NIAID has underway in proteomics. BioInform’s sister publication ProteoMonitor reported last week that the agency has awarded more than $54 million so far for five biodefense-related proteomics contracts, and plans to award two more contracts under the same program.

Valentina Di Francesco, bioinformatics program director in NIAID’s Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, said that the agency may award several more BRC contracts in the next few months, but declined to provide further details.

Di Francesco said that the goal of the BRCs is to “collect, consolidate, and integrate” publicly available information on microbial pathogens that is currently dispersed throughout the research community. NIAID made sure that each of the pathgens it had identified would be covered by at least one center, she said, with “as little redundancy as possible.” In addition, she said, “We hope to have the centers coordinate with each other and collaborate with each other” in areas such as the development of standards for data exchange

—BT

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