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SUNY Buffalo to Use $850K Grant to Expand Bioinformatics Faculty


By Uduak Grace Thomas

The New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences at the State University of New York at Buffalo has received an $850,000 grant from the John Oishei Foundation to hire new bioinformatics and computational biology faculty.

The new staffers will support research efforts at UB and its partner institutions, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute.

The funds will be spread out over two years and will support two new tenure-track faculty members at the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Norma Nowak, director of science and technology at the Center of Excellence and a faculty member at UB, told BioInform that the center is looking to fill an associate level position and an assistant professor position this year.

She explained that the grant will be used to pay the salaries of the new hires for the first two years of their employment. Subsequently the school of medicine will take responsibility for their pay.

The new recruits will be based at the Buffalo CoE, which houses its core supercomputing and genomics facilities including the university’s Center for Computational Research.

While the funds won’t be invested in additional software or hardware, Nowak expects that the new hires will bring significant computational expertise and more than likely will develop software that would be beneficial to local research efforts.

She added that the search isn’t limited to bioinformaticists and computational biologists in specific research areas. Rather, the center is looking for researchers who are interested in developing new methods of analyzing data and who would be able to offer support to researchers in the university and their collaborators.

“What we really want are leaders,” she said. “We don’t want people who go out and use third-party software. We want people who come in and develop new algorithms [that] really [push] the envelope.”

Furthermore, it is expected that the recruits will reduce the university’s dependence on outsourcing for some of its data analysis needs — particularly for gene expression arrays.

Currently the center has some in-house bioinformatics expertise in data analysis and infrastructure for modeling and simulation.

It also has some sequencing capability, including a Roche 454 sequencer that is used to study infectious diseases and an Illumina HiSeq 2000 for projects involving larger genomes.

Financed by a grant from the National Center for Research Resources, the HiSeq arrived in January and is being used for projects involving whole-genome and candidate region sequencing, transcriptome analysis, small RNA discovery, methylation profiling, and protein-nucleic acid interaction analysis on a genome-wide scale.

UB said the funds from the Oshei foundation complement recent upgrades to its supercomputing capabilities.

Last year, the Center for Computational Research underwent a more than $9 million expansion that allowed the facility to increase its data processing power from 60 to 70 teraflops and increase its memory capacity to 600 terabytes of storage.

The financial support included a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health that was used to install a new biomedical research computing infrastructure, a five-year $7.75 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop software tools and services to monitor the NSF-funded TeraGrid, and $1.2 million from the New York State Energy, Research, and Development Authority to help the center reduce its power consumption by 30 percent (BI 07/23/2010).

Have topics you'd like to see covered in BioInform? Contact the editor at uthomas [at] genomeweb [.] com.

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