BLACKSBURG, May 2, 2002 - The National Science Foundation has awarded Dr. Reinhard Laubenbacher, Research Professor at Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) and Professor of Mathematics at Virginia Tech, a $100,000 grant to use mathematical models called “cell complexes” to create more efficient computational processes which can be used to study a variety of questions about complex systems. 

Computer modeling techniques based on such processes will be applicable to many biological systems, including humans, to help understand the functions of genes, the sequence in which genes are turned on or off in a living organism, and the effect of a particular gene or gene complex on other functions in a biological system.

“Understanding the structure and dynamics of gene regulatory systems is an important step in understanding the role genes play in the regulation of cell function and in disease mechanisms,” said Dr. Laubenbacher. “Mathematical models have contributed to many important discoveries and will continue to expand the limits of existing computational procedures.”

Mathematical models are often used to analyze large systems, but current computational methods are sometimes not efficient enough to handle the amount of data generated from genetic research. To get a clearer picture of how systems such as gene networks function, Dr. Laubenbacher and co-investigator Dr. Bernd Sturmfels of the University of California-Berkeley will use “cell complexes,” or geometrical objects that can be used to represent certain aspects of biological systems.

The project, titled “Algebraic Algorithms for Cell Complexes”, will foster the creation of new algorithms that will allow for more computational flexibility and efficiency. Thus, gene networks under scrutiny will be more thoroughly and accurately represented. Dr. Laubenbacher has previously used this approach to study networks in other contexts, such as decision and traffic networks.

VBI is a Commonwealth of Virginia shared resource located at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Through its support of bioinformatics research across Virginia and around the globe, VBI researchers have leveraged a $25-million research base since its establishment in July of 2000. The Institute merges cutting-edge biological research with state-of-the-art computer science in its Core Laboratory and Computational Facilities with services available on a cost-recovery basis.

# #

Published by Public Relations, May 01, 2002