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Texas A&M Plans Bioinformatics, Genomics Engineering Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Texas A&M University plans to establish a new center to conduct genomics and computational biology research into human and animal health and agriculture.

The Center for Bioinformatics and Genomics Systems Engineering, for which the Board of Regents approved plans late last week, will be a joint program run by the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) and Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

The CBGSE is expected to be funded with $6 million over roughly five years from TEES and AgriLife Research, according to the agenda from the Board of Regents' meeting last week. The center will aim to combine life sciences approaches with engineering systems theory to conduct basic and translational research projects.

The center will provide 7,000 square feet of lab space, a greenhouse, and office spaces for faculty and grad students.

One of the central goals for the CBGSE is to serve as a training ground for doctoral and post-doc students; within two years Texas A&M expects to have between 25 and 30 PhD students working there.

Researchers at the center will seek to establish a mathematical basis of biology to better understand biological systems and to inform diagnosis and treatment in humans and plant and animal sciences. They also will seek to formalize long-term relations within the agricultural and animal science communities within the A&M system, and to develop projects with medical institutions and industry.

Another goal is for the center to lure more funding to support both agricultural and life sciences research, particularly projects that relate to Texas-based industries.

Under the plan, TEES will hire two research faculty members trained in bioinformatics, computational biology, or systems biology, while AgriLife will hire two faculty members who will hold research appointments within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Edward Dougherty, who currently is director of the Genomic Signal Processing Laboratory and who holds a chair in the Texas A&M Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will be the CBGSE's director.

"Our aim is to expand our existing strength in the mathematical formulation of molecular-level medicine and to translate that theoretical capability into diagnostic and therapeutic applications for human and animal health," Dougherty said.

"One of the greatest challenges facing mankind is feeding its ever-growing population," added Charlie Johnson, who is director of Genomics and Bioinformatics at AgriLife and will be associate director of the planned center. "This center will play a critical role in developing the basic underpinnings and analytical tools to empower the development of improved food and fiber around the globe."