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Purdue Team Awarded $3.8M NIH Grant to Upgrade Metagenomics Data System

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – A Purdue University research team has received a five-year, $3.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to upgrade an open-source metagenomics data system so that it can handle the increase in data and users it has seen since it was launched nearly a decade ago.

The system — called Metagenomics-Rapid Annotation (MG-RAST) — was developed by Argonne National Laboratory in 2007 as an online portal to access a pipeline of hardware and software for automated metagenome analysis. Since then, however, the system has strained to meet the needs of a growing user base and to process bigger and more complex datasets resulting from advances in next-generation sequencing.

To address this issue, and with the support of the NIH funding, the Purdue scientists aim to comprehensively redesign MG-RAST to improve its functionality and data reproducibility, as well as boost its software quality and performance through automated monitoring and the generation of test suites. They will also develop a federated infrastructure so that system tasks can be offloaded to computer clusters at other institutions.

"Since its original design, MG-RAST has witnessed the frenetic development of next-generation sequencing technologies, a drastically altered computing landscape, and other challenges," Purdue's Saurabh Bagchi, one of the grant's co-principal investigators, said in a statement.

"This grant will bring significant upgrades to the MG-RAST software infrastructure and harnesses the expertise of the Purdue team in distributed infrastructures and robust software development," Folker Meyer, a computational biologist at Argonne and Purdue collaborator, added.

The Purdue team is also working with researchers at the University of Chicago's School of Medicine, who will test a pilot-scale system once it is ready.