Bioinformatics Resource Center to support infectious disease research

Author: William G. Gilroy


The Center for Tropical Disease Research and Training at the University of Notre Dame has been awarded a $10 million contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), an arm of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to create and maintain a public Bioinformatics Resource Center (BRC) that will manage genomic information on insects and other arthropods that transmit human pathogens.p. The goal is to establish a set of Web-accessible public databases and accompanying tools designed to aid researchers working in the field of infectious disease. With data initially centered on arthropods like mosquitoes and ticks that transmit some of the most important infectious diseases in the world, VectorBase, as it will be known, will enable scientists to view and manipulate both genomic information and related data and bibliographic information.p. Notre Dame is an appropriate lead organization for this effort because we have a strong group of biologists working specifically with organisms that transmit human pathogens,said Frank H. Collins, director of the center and the George and Winifred Clark Professor of Biological Sciences.We have taken a leading role in the scientific community in advocating this type of genomic sequencing resource.p. Collins, who will serve as principal investigator for the NIAID contract, was one of the key figures in the 2002 sequencing of the genome of Anopheles gambiae, the primary mosquito species that transmits the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, to humans. David Severson, a professor of biological sciences at Notre Dame, is coordinating a similar genome sequencing project for the mosquito Aedes aegypti that transmits such diseases as yellow fever and dengue fever.p. VectorBase will house the huge amount of data generated by these sequencing projects and the subsequent analysis of these vector genomes. Arthropod genomes are large and complex. The genome sequence of the Aedes aegypti mosquito alone consists of more than 800 million nucleotides, approximately one-quarter the size of the human genome. VectorBase will be a resource that will provide valuable and rapid assistance to scientists who work on these vectors of human pathogens and the diseases they transmit. It will be an especially valuable resource as part of the U.S. effort to be prepared to deal with these vectors and pathogens as potential agents of bioterrorism.p. Notre Dame is the lead research group in the VectorBase project, but the creation and maintenance of the resource center will involve contributions from key partners at the European Bioinformatics Institute in England, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Germany, the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in Crete (Greece), and Harvard University. Additional collaborators at Purdue University, the University of California Riverside, and many other organizations will be involved in the creation and analysis of the data managed by VectorBase.p. NIAID awarded a total of seven contracts to establish national BRCs. In addition to Notre Dame, contracts were awarded to the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech, the Institute for Genomic Research, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Pennsylvania, the Systems Research and Applications Corporation, and Grumman IT Federal Enterprise Solutions.p. _Contact: Frank H. Collins, George and Winifred Clark Professor of Biological Sciences and director of the Center for Tropical Disease Research and Training, 574-631-9245, . __ _ p.

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