December 6, 2002

Grant boosts Biomedical Informatics department

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Dr. William Stead

Grant boosts Biomedical Informatics department

Nancy Lorenzi, Ph.D.

Nancy Lorenzi, Ph.D.

Dr. Mark Magnuson

Dr. Mark Magnuson

Vanderbilt University is one of a select group of institutions to receive a “pre-Center” grant to develop a National Program of Excellence in Biomedical Computing (NPEBC). The NPEBCs are part of the National Institutes of Health’s Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative (BISTI), which is aimed at making optimal use of computer science and technology to address problems in biology and medicine.

“Our project asks how we organize ourselves to discover in a world where scientific techniques change rapidly and experts in many disciplines must come together to solve problems,” said Dr. William W. Stead, associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs, chief information architect for the University, and the principal investigator of the pre-Center grant.

Vanderbilt’s pre-Center grant proposes a “linked knowledge model” as an organizational framework to maximize multidisciplinary research. The model draws linkages between the realms of discovery/applications and information technology to create new knowledge, hypotheses and models for applications.

“The model recognizes that disparate groups working together will achieve more than they could working independently,” said Nancy M. Lorenzi, Ph.D., assistant vice chancellor for Health Affairs and professor of Biomedical Informatics.

The two-year planning grant will support efforts to establish the linked knowledge model organizational structure. The grant also will support two to four development projects that clearly demonstrate the link between biology and informatics tool development, initiatives in education and career development, and a core coordinator position to address issues such as “one-stop shopping” for researchers and data management services.

“The huge amount of new data that is being generated as a result of genomics and proteomics methodologies requires the development of new bioinformatics tools and strategies,” said Dr. Mark A. Magnuson, assistant vice chancellor for Research, professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, and the co-principal investigator of the pre-Center grant. “This project will allow Vanderbilt to build new tools, platforms and educational resources that are required for us to maximize the value of all this new information.”

The goal of the NPEBC initiative is to create a network of centers around the country that will:

• Promote bioinformatics and bio-computational research that enables the advancement of biomedical research.

• Develop useful and interoperable informatics and computational tools for biomedical research.

• Establish mutually beneficial collaborations between biomedical researchers and informatics and computation researchers.

• Train a new generation of bioinformatics and bio-computation scientists.

“We hope this pre-Center grant will pave the road to a full-scale National Program of Excellence in Biomedical Computing,” Magnuson said. “We are thrilled that Vanderbilt is undertaking this important initiative.”