NCI’s caBIG Plans to Award $3.5M to Five In Silico Research Centers

August 10, 2009

Columbia University, Emory University, Georgetown University, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the Translational Genomics Research Institute have been notified they are “contingent” awardees under the National Cancer Institute’s “In Silico Research Centers of Excellence” program.

The NCI Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology and SAIC-Frederick, an NCI contractor, announced the contracts in late July. The term “contingent” refers to the fact that SAIC-Frederick and the individual institutions still need to reach final contractual agreements, a spokesperson told BioInform.

According to a solicitation for the program issued last December [BioInform 01-02-09], SAIC-Frederick planned to award approximately five contracts worth a total of $3.5 million per year.

The program’s goal is to “empower in silico research” for large data sets that have been made available to the cancer community. In particular, the centers will perform hypothesis-driven research projects on data sets, including those that are part of the Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid, or caBIG, according to the NCI announcement.

The directors of the five contingent in silico research centers are: Andrea Califano, professor of biomedical informatics at Columbia University; Joel Saltz, director Emory University School of Medicine’s Center for Comprehensive Informatics; breast cancer researcher Robert Clarke, who is professor of oncology, physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University; Martin McIntosh, principal investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Computational Proteomics Laboratory; and Will FitzHugh at The Translational Genomics Research Institute.

“The primary goal of the ISRC will be to add scientific value to the large-scale datasets developed as part of the caBIG program, and currently accessible through the caGrid,” the solicitation stated.

The centers will use tools developed as part of the caBIG program, as well as other open-source or commercial tools to “accomplish the desired goals of making novel discoveries” with the potential of advancing cancer’s mechanisms, treatment and prevention strategies.

The solicitation was open to academic or commercial organizations with “expertise in computational biology, informatics analysis, statistics, genomics, proteomics, or image analysis.”

In response to questions from applicants, SAIC-Frederick indicated that the $3.5 million total funding for the program is a “fixed price” that includes both indirect and direct costs and also includes all “anticipated costs” including hardware and software.

In response to a question about the use of proprietary software at the centers, SAIC-Frederick responded that proprietary software may be used “as long as the algorithms are publicly documented” and that any output does not require proprietary software to be read. The use of proprietary software “with licensing terms that are assigned to output” will not be approved for use, SAIC stated.

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