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UW picked for national pathogen bioinformatics resource

Article

Madison, Wis.-In an effort to speed up research on disease-causing pathogens, including ones that could be used as biological weapons, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) will team with an information technology company, SRA International, Inc. to build an online publicly accessible library of data on these infectious agents and their genomes, the university reports.

Madison, Wis.—In an effort to speed up research on disease-causing pathogens, including ones that could be used as biological weapons, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) will team with an information technology company, SRA International, Inc. to build an online publicly accessible library of data on these infectious agents and their genomes, the university reports.

The work is part of an estimated $13.6 million, five-year contract awarded to SRA by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health and will represent one of the multiple newly established Bioinformatics Resource Centers for Biodefense and Emerging/Re-emerging Infectious Diseases, each focusing on a different set of animal and human pathogens, the university says.

Designed to facilitate scientific research, the resource will consolidate known information about enterobacteria, a group of pathogens that can cause diseases such as dysentery, plague and typhoid fever. The site will also include information on diarrheagenic E. coli, one of the most studies species in modern biology.

In addition to providing a picture of these genomes, the resource will bring together information about what these genes do and which ones are shared across organisms. Any publication identifying the genes or their roles also will be listed. Plus, researchers using the database can make direct contributions, adding new pieces of information to complete the picture.

"Currently, this information is really disparate," says Nicole Perna, an assistant professor of animal health and biomedical sciences at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, who will lead the university's involvement in this collaborative project.

"This resource will be a one-stop shop that will facilitate a lot of different research projects and cut down on the time researchers need to spend correlating information from separate resources."

Perna calls the program a boon to the research community and the public who will ultimately benefit from the progress made on the study of these pathogens and the diseases they cause, Perna says.

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