BLACKSBURG, Va., September 25, 2007 - The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) hosted its second annual research symposium on September 6-7 at Mountain Lake Hotel in Pembroke, Va. With a goal of sharing scientific ideas and research, as well as promoting collaborative work across the Institute, the event consisted of 26 oral presentations from students, post-graduates and other scientists working at VBI, as well as over 50 poster presentations on topics spanning bioinformatics, genomics, metabolomics, proteomics and systems biology.

Olga Troyanskaya Olga Troyanskaya, assistant professor in Princeton University's Department of Computer Science and head of the Laboratory for Bioinformatics and Functional Genomics at the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, NJ, served as the keynote speaker for the symposium. Her research combines computational methods with an experimental component to develop comprehensive descriptions of genetic systems linked to cellular control. This includes the study of biological systems whose malfunctioning becomes the basis of genetic disorders such as cancer and others whose failure might produce developmental defects in model systems. Experimental work in her laboratory specifically focuses on Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker's yeast).

During her presentation, Troyanskaya talked extensively about addressing the data-knowledge disconnect in bioinformatics as well as three data integration projects underway in her laboratory - SPELL, bioPIXIE and MEFIT.

"We're all aware of the exponential growth in data from large-scale biology. For example, microarray experiments have provided a deluge of information over the past ten years or so. However, we have not witnessed an exponential growth in knowledge to match this output. We need to address this data-knowledge disconnect through bioinformatics," Troyanskaya said.

Troyanskaya's laboratory is developing SPELL, bioPIXIE and MEFIT as tools to bridge the gap. SPELL is a "Google for microarray data" that allows the user to identify other genes related to a particular search. bioPIXIE looks beyond gene expression data and provides useful information on potential interaction networks and pathways for a particular gene or set of genes. MEFIT takes microarray data and predicts the likelihood of functional relationships between a gene pair in the context of a specific biological function.

Awards were also presented during the event. Bryan Lewis, graduate student in Dr. Chris Barrett's Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory, received an award for the most popular oral presentation at the symposium for his talk, "Computational epidemiology as a tool for understanding the complex interactions that confront public health decision making". The most popular poster presentation award was given to Ban Wang, a Blacksburg High School student working in Dr. Biswarup Mukhopadhyay's research group, for her poster titled, "Nutritional, Morphological and Genetic Characteristics of Duck Pond Park Soil Bacteria".



Susan Bland
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Published by Public Relations, September 25, 2007