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Virginia Bioinformatics Institute Among First Recipients of Sun Center of Excellence Program

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The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute is due to receive over $1 million in computational resources and support for post-doctoral research from Sun Microsystems, who selected VBI as one of its first Centers of Excellence in Bioinformatics.

Under the three-year partnership, VBI, housed at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., will work with Sun to coordinate VBI’s biochemical simulation software, Gepasi, with Sun’s high-performance computing platforms. In addition, VBI’s next-generation simulator, Copasi, which is still in development, will be optimized to run under Sun’s current and future platforms.

“Sun’s support in this project will ensure that our simulation software will utilize the maximal performance that Sun’s servers and workstations are capable of,” said Pedro Mendes, co-principal investigator of the project at VBI.

In addition to the work at VBI, Virginia Tech’s department of computer science will receive support for its research in problem-solving environments in bioinformatics, an area in which VBI and the computer science faculty already collaborate.

The Center of Excellence program is Sun’s latest effort to promote the use of its platform in the life science computing community. Under the matching-grant program, carefully selected academic and non-profit organizations act as incubators for Sun technology and provide algorithms, databases, and technology of interest to the computational biology community.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison was recently named a Sun Center of Excellence in Genomics and Sun expects to name several more Centers of Excellence in Bioinformatics within the next few months.

Stefan Unger, business development manager for computational biology in Sun’s global education and research group, said the Center of Excellence program is “a way for us to recognize groups that excel in their particular areas — bioinformatics, agricultural genomics, computational biology, molecular protein modeling, biosimulation, or whatever.”

Unger stressed that Sun’s financial contribution to the centers is not a gift. Participating universities and research institutions are required to provide a financial commitment that the program matches.

The Centers of Excellence in Bioinformatics will serve as the steering committee for a Computational Biology Special Interest Group that Sun is preparing to launch. The Special Interest Group will be open to all Sun customers and will coordinate with Sun’s other life science initiatives: the Informatics Advisory Council and the recently announced open platform initiative, tentatively named I3C (Informatics Interoperability Infrastructure Consortium).

“We are totally in sync on these things.” Unger said. “Some of the [IAC and I3C] items will show up on our agenda at the Special Interest Group.”

The first meeting of the Computational Biology Special Interest Group will occur at the HPC Consortium meeting in Heidelberg, Germany, June 19.

— BT

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