Indiana University collaboration strengthens search for new drug discoveries

Bloomington 05 October 2005Medical scientists must sift through and analyse mammoth amounts of data to find ways to treat disease, and an Indiana University (IU) School of Informatics-led team has been assembled to help them develop new discoveries. The School has been awarded a two-year $500.000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish the Chemical Informatics and Cyberinfrastructure Collaboratory (CICC), and it brings together experts in informatics, medicine, computer science, chemistry, biology and from IU's Pervasive Technology Labs (PTL).


Chemical informatics is the application of computer technology to chemistry in all of its manifestations, particularly in the drug-manufacturing industry. The group seeks to devise an integrated cyberinfrastructure composed of diverse and easily expandable databases, simulation engines and discovery tools such as PubChem, the NIH's small molecule chemical and biological database. They will use emerging high-capacity computer networks and data repositories and develop Grid and Web technology for chemistry research.

"The tools and infrastructure we build will be tested in real-world industries and academic institutions and tested by practising scientists", stated IU principal investigator Geoffrey C. Fox, Ph.D., professor of informatics and director of PTL's Community Grids Lab. "Ultimately, our work will help chemists better understand the mechanisms applicable to new methods of drug synthesis and lead to new therapies for cancer, Alzheimer's disease and other devastating disorders."

The CICC also will pave the way for new academic courses and chemical informatics research at IU, noted Informatics Dean J. Michael Dunn, Ph.D. The School offers graduate degrees in chemical informatics at its campuses in Bloomington and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "It will be necessary for future scientists to integrate new methods of information technology and fundamental chemical expertise in life sciences research and discoveries", Dr. Dunn stated. "We are developing that talent today and the CICC will advance educational and research opportunities for tomorrow's students."

Michael A. McRobbie, vice president of information technology and chief information officer at Indiana University, envisions other benefits as the CICC unfolds. "The grant builds upon the strong base of research under way at IU", Michael McRobbie stated. "The accomplishments of the School of Informatics and the Pervasive Technology Labs have been a tremendous boon to our scientific accomplishments and ability to compete for and receive external research funding."

Among the researchers involved in the CICC are Gary Wiggins, informatics; Mu-Hyun Baik, informatics/chemistry; Randall Bramley, computer science; Peter Cherbas, Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics; Richard DiMarchi, chemistry; Keith Dunker, informatics, medicine and Center for Computational Biology; Dennis Gannon, computer science; Marlon Pierce, PTL; Beth Plale, computer science; and David Wild, informatics. They will be assisted by leaders from the computer and pharmaceutical industries.

The Indiana University School of Informatics offers a unique, interdisciplinary curriculum that focuses on developing specialized skills and knowledge of information technology. The School has a variety of undergraduate degrees and specialized master's and doctorate degrees in bioinformatics, chemical informatics, health informatics, human-computer interaction, laboratory informatics and media arts and science. Each degree is an interdisciplinary endeavour that combines course work and field experiences from a traditional subject area or discipline with intensive study of information and technology.

In partnership with the Lilly Endowment, Pervasive Technology Labs at Indiana University serves as an economic development catalyst for Indiana's information technology sector through technology transfer, commercialization of innovations produced in the labs, and joint research and development partnerships with government and industry.

Leslie Versweyveld

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