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Last modified: Thursday, October 20, 2011

IU awarded $1.5 million NSF grant for new national center to support human genome research

Oct. 20, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Indiana University a $1.5 million grant to establish the National Center for Genome Analysis Support (NCGAS). Genome analysis can help scientists discover new medicines, improve crops, understand diseases and create personalized treatments for various illnesses.

William Barnett

William Barnett

Print-Quality Photo

"This center will give biologists the tools to analyze gene sequence data that they cannot now study using existing systems," said William Barnett, director, Science Community Tools at IU. "We plan to enable innovative and potentially transformative research by providing tools and services that will accelerate important new scientific discoveries."

Barnett is co-principal investigator on the grant and will direct the new center at IU, staffed with three new positions.

Current technologies make it possible to obtain the sequence of DNA fragments in a human genome much faster than when the first map of the human genome was published in 2001. However, these methods produce extremely large and complex data sets that can be studied only with high-powered computer processing and storage. The NCGAS will help with this process by providing support for genome analysis software and the storage of large data sets for the national community of NSF-funded researchers who undertake genome science.

The center will also provide dedicated access to large memory supercomputers such as IU's new Mason system that are critical for these types of data-intensive science applications. As an institutional supercomputer, Mason will also integrate with the new NSF-funded Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) national network of supercomputers to provide campus-based integration known as "campus bridging." Indiana University is a funded partner in XSEDE.

IU's partners in NCGAS include the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas Austin and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California San Diego. NCGAS will support genome analysis software running on supercomputers at TACC and SDSC, as well as other supercomputers that are part of XSEDE.

The center leverages the expertise and intellectual leadership of co-principal Investigators Michael Lynch, distinguished professor of biology; Matthew Hahn, associate professor of biology and informatics; and Geoffrey C. Fox, director of the Pervasive Technology Institute's Digital Science Center and distinguished professor of informatics.

Craig Stewart, dean for Research Technologies, executive director of PTI, and principal investigator on the NCGAS grant award, said, "The NCGAS is the culmination of more than a decade of focused support for bioinformatics by University Information Technology Services, spearheaded initially by Dr. Richard Repasky and now led by Dr. William Barnett. Dr. Repasky was in failing health as he helped write this proposal—which turned out to be the last in which he was involved. Dick passed away last fall after a long battle with cancer, and we are grateful to have NCGAS as one element of his legacy at IU. Here's to you, Dick Repasky!"