Defense provides additional $4.9 million for pathogen research tool

10/11/04

Blacksburg, Va. – The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech has received $4.9 million in additional funding from the United States Department of Defense (DoD) for the PathPort (Pathogen Portal) project, which is helping scientists amass and analyze information about disease organisms.

PathPort is a life sciences interoperability framework that provide access to biological characterizations of known pathogens and their near relatives, and the tools to analyze and interpret this data. The project has opened the door for users to more effectively combat infectious diseases by providing access to relevant data and tools to analyze, manage, visualize, and extend existing and developing data sets. Through integration with VBI's core laboratory facility, VBI scientists and collaborators have access to a unique infrastructure for data generation, management, analysis, and dissemination.

"The continuation of this project provides increased capabilities and infrastructure for our nation to meet its needs in combating infectious diseases," said VBI Professor and Director Bruno Sobral.

Biological data sets are growing exponentially as a result of genome sequencing projects and other new technologies. Sobral and his cyberinfrastructure group are building PathPort as a set of Web-services to consolidate, annotate, validate, disseminate, and analyze available pathogen data from disparate sources through an interoperable life sciences framework built on open community standards. Current analytical tools in PathPort allow for the creation of new data models, analysis of genomic, transcriptomic and curated literature data, as well as the discovery of novel inter-data relationships. The client side of PathPort is ToolBus, a "bus" for connecting data and tools and viewing results through a single, consistent user interface. Sobral's cyberinfrastructure group is working with diverse communities to create a common set of data communication standards to allow scientists across the globe to evaluate data and discover new relationships through a common platform.

Data in PathPort focus on host-pathogen-environment interactions, thus poised to aid in detection, identification, and analysis of high-priority pathogens that have potential to cause significant harm in either a naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberately introduced disease outbreaks. ToolBus/PathPort allows researchers to explore curated pathogen information and molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis from diverse sources.

Using its high-performance computational infrastructure and a world-class team of biologists and computer technologists, the cyberinfrastructure group will continue to develop PathPort as a key to unlock the door to the acquisition of more powerful knowledge for infectious disease research.

Established in 2000 as a Commonwealth of Virginia shared resource, the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech has a research platform centered on understanding the "disease triangle" of host-pathogen-environment interactions. With almost $42 million in extramural research funding awarded to date, VBI researchers are working on many human, crop, and animal diseases.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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