BLACKSBURG, March 1, 2001 - The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute announced today that Sun Microsystems, Inc, (Nasdaq: SUNW) has selected VBI as a Sun Center of Excellence (Sun-COE) in Bioinformatics, as a result of VBI's research programs, vision, and staff. As a Sun Center of Excellence, VBI will receive over $1 million in computational resources and support for post-doctoral research in a three-year partnership. 

"The Center of Excellence program in computational biology recognizes leading academic organizations for their ability to significantly advance their fields through research and partnerships. Bioinformatics is one of the most dynamic areas of interest to Sun and we are excited to name VBI as a Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics," said Dr. Stefan Unger, Business Development Manager for Computational Biology in Sun's Global Education and Research Group.

VBI and Sun Microsystems will work together to coordinate VBI's existing biochemical simulation software (Gepasi) with Sun's high-performance computing platforms. In addition, VBI's next generation simulator (COPASI), currently in early developmental stages, will be highly optimized to run under Sun's current and future platforms. COPASI will be an essential tool in interpreting the highly complex functional genomic data such as that of gene chips and microarrays.

"Sun's support in this project will ensure that our simulation software will utilize the maximal performance that Sun's servers and workstations are capable of," said Dr. Pedro Mendes, VBI faculty and co-principle investigator of the project. "Gepasi, already a key component in on-going research, is being used by numerous laboratories internationally to simulate biochemical systems. The new system will be even more useful as new features are added."

In addition to Dr. Mendes' research, VBI has created research links with Virginia Tech's Department of Computer Science. As a partner in the Sun Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics, the Department of Computer Science will receive support for its research in problem solving environments in bioinformatics, an area in which VBI and CS faculty already collaborate.

Dr. Dennis Kafura, Head of the Department of Computer Science, views the partnership with VBI and Sun Microsystems as "strategically important for our department as it provides an ideal avenue to broaden our research in problem solving environments into the life sciences domain."

Dr. Bruno Sobral, VBI's Director and Principal Investigator for the COE, states that "this is an early sign of VBI's accelerated progress in the field, only seven months after being inaugurated. The strong link to Sun will allow VBI to accelerate its research and economic development missions."

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Published by Public Relations, February 28, 2001