Vanderbilt medical center

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Planning a national center

by Leigh MacMillan

Vanderbilt is one of a select group of institutions to receive a planning grant to develop a National Program of Excellence in Biomedical Computing (NPEBC). The NPEBCs are part of the NIH’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.

The hope is that NPEBCs around the country 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 biocomputation scientists

Bill Stead and Mark Magnuson are the PI/co-PI on Vanderbilt’s grant, which 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,” says Nancy Lorenzi.

Vanderbilt’s two-year planning grant will support efforts to establish the linked 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. An executive steering committee, coordinated by Stead, Magnuson, Lorenzi, and John Manning will oversee implementation of the linked knowledge model.

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

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