Pathogenic information a cough away
As biological weapons and the flu vaccine
shortage make headlines, defense and health officials are taking
steps to ward off future crises. The Computation Institute, a collaborative
effort between the University and Argonne National Laboratory, hopes
to lessen pathogenic threats by improving information sharing.
The institute will help set up the new National
Microbial Pathogen Data Resource Center, including an easy-to-access
database that compiles experimental research and modeling results.
Although the program will build on existing knowledge, the center
also hopes to dig a level deeper, identifying the underlying causes
of diseases, not just symptoms.
“In essence we’re trying to find
what makes these pathogens tick,” explains Rick Stevens, a
computer-science professor at Chicago and codirector of the new
A team of experts in biology, biophysics, microbiology,
computer science, and bioinformatics will lead the center, funded
by an $18 million contract from the National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases. While the database will contain hundreds
of genomes, research projects will focus on eight main pathogens,
including Streptococcus bacteria (pictured above), which
causes pneumonia and meningitis, among other maladies.—S.I.A.