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Vol. LXI, No. 23
November 13, 2009
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NIAIDís Inaugural Bioinformatics Festival Deemed a Success


Dr. Sudhir Varma speaks on the topic “Introduction to Microarray Analysis” at one of nine seminars on bioinformatics.
Dr. Sudhir Varma speaks on the topic “Introduction to Microarray Analysis” at one of nine seminars on bioinformatics.

More than 250 people from various institutes participated in the NIAID Office of Cyber Infrastructure and Computational Biology (OCICB) 2009 Bioinformatics and Computational Biosciences Festival. The first annual festival was held recently in the Bldg. 50 lobby and auditorium. It highlighted the bioinformatics services and resources offered by OCICB and served as a kick-off for the office’s fall seminar series. The festival featured introductory seminars on topics ranging from structural biology to microarray analysis and special exhibits designed to broaden knowledge of emerging technologies and collaboration opportunities available for NIAID and NIH researchers.

NIAID researchers face the unique challenge of combating infectious and immune-related diseases that rapidly change and adapt on a global scale, including emerging diseases such as SARS as well as HIV/AIDS, influenza and asthma. To face this challenge, NIAID leverages the latest computational technologies through OCICB to speed discovery and keep at the forefront of today’s rapid scientific pace. OCICB works closely with NIAID intramural, extramural and administrative staff to develop technologies that support the institute mission.

OCICB provides leadership and a full range of IT infrastructure tools including a spectrum of information management solutions, engineering and bioinformatics.“We’ve uniquely leveraged these tools to support research,” says Mike Tartakovsky, NIAID chief information officer and OCICB director. “Staying engaged with NIH researchers and keeping the lines of communication open is important to us. This year’s bioinformatics festival helped us to accomplish these goals.”

Dr. Yentram Huyen demonstrates a molecular structure created using NIAID’s 3-D printer to attendees at the festival.
Dr. Yentram Huyen demonstrates a molecular structure created using NIAID’s 3-D printer to attendees at the festival.
The festival featured seminars and exhibits that highlighted the bioinformatics services and resources available through OCICB. Experts from OCICB’s Bioinformatics and Computational Biosciences Branch (BCBB) held seminars on topics including phylogenetics and molecular dynamics. Seminar attendance was high in general but the seminar on Network Analysis and Function Prediction drew a full auditorium. BCBB chief Dr. Yentram Huyen said there were several enthusiastic discussions between festival participants and BCBB and that a hot topic was Next Generation Sequencing, which allows scientists to decipher entire human and pathogen genomes within a matter of days.

Exhibits at the festival included demonstrations of OCICB-developed software as well as a “genius booth,” where festival participants engaged experts on topics such as statistics tests for researchers and structural biology. A 3-D printing demonstration showcased new technologies that make molecular structures tangible and allow researchers to communicate complex ideas more quickly.

“It’s important to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to bioinformatics,” Huyen said. Festival participants went away armed with information about resources available to assist them. “It was truly an informal event where researchers were informed about available software, clued in about hidden ‘gotchas’ in bioinformatics analysis and encouraged to use bioinformatics tools,” said participant Dr. Andrei Gabrielian.

Discussions at the festival spurred several inter-institute collaborative opportunities on bioinformatics topics that are currently under consideration. For more information on bioinformatics at NIAID or to discuss possible collaborations for your research, contact ScienceApps@niaid.nih.gov. For information on upcoming seminars, see http://bioinformatics.niaid.nih.gov. NIHRecord Icon

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